HORSHAM Council has deferred a second vote on the City to River masterplan during a heated exchange in which allegations of "bullying and inaction" were revealed.
An email from Councillor Pam Clarke, accessed under a Freedom of Information request and read out at the Horsham Rural City Council meeting on Monday night, laid bare divisions within the council.
During the three hour meeting attended by more than 100 people, Councillor John Robinson read out an email sent by Cr Clarke in which she accused Cr Robinson of "bullying" and Councillor David Grimble of "inaction".
Cr Clarke told the Mail-Times after the meeting that she regretted writing the email, which was personal correspondence to a friend written in the early hours of the morning on a Bali holiday.
At the start of the City to River debate Cr Robinson moved a point of order and then read from Cr Clarke's email, which he said damaged the reputations of Cr Grimble and himself.
"I have watched and been the victim of appalling behaviour of these two," Cr Clark wrote in the email. "You have not witnessed much of the bullying that has occurred in both closed meetings and in open council where they know they have the power and officers and councillors can not defend themselves.
"I have watched them at every turn, on every issue insight (sic) the community against me as mayor and council in general."
She ended the email with "In the 10 years David (Grimble) has been a councillor he has not voted FOR (sic) any major projects for this community. That is where much of my frustration comes from."
The email, sent on August 3 last year from Cr Clarke's Horsham Rural City Council email account, was released following an FOI request from Brian Basham, who runs the Horsham Rural City Council Watch blog and intends to run for local government this year.
Cr Robinson said "the very disappointing email" called into question the integrity of himself and Cr Grimble.
He said it was sent to an "elected community leader of a representative group that has a significant interest in Council's direction of the City to River project. The email is specifically referenced to the City to River plan."
Cr Robinson said that he and Cr Grimble had been, on behalf of the community, outspoken about the processes around the City to River plan to "ensure integrity".
He said in the case of Cr Clarke's email: "In this matter council resources including the use of our email system have been used in an attempt to damage the reputations of both myself and Cr Grimble, thereby diminishing our capability to represent the community."
The meeting was disrupted several times while Mayor Mark Radford tried to establish whether the point of order was valid, including reading out the definition of a point of order and offering discussions off the council floor. Cr Grimble eventually moved a motion that council defer the vote on the City to River masterplan to seek legal advice from the Municipal Association of Victoria on the validity of Cr Robinson's point of order. The motion was carried.
Cr Clarke told the Mail-Times on Monday night that "you don't expect an email that you wrote to someone you considered to be a friend to be discussed in council".
She said she was on holiday in Bali when she wrote the email at about 4am to Di Bell, who later became president of Horsham Rural Ratepayers and Residents.
Cr Clarke said she wasn't sure if she had sent it from her work email or not.
Asked if she stood by her comments Cr Clarke said she remembered some of what she said but that it was "a long time ago".
Cr Clarke said what happened at the meeting on Monday night was "not unexpected" and "an extension" of what she had experienced in the last few years.
"Cr Robinson has used that point of order before to use issues that no-one can debate," she said. "(The point of order) was done prior to it getting into the (City to River) debate as a way to defer the issue."
Cr Clarke, along with Cr Alethea Gulvin, was out of the room when the email was read due to a declared conflict of interest relating to the City to River masterplan.
She said that not a lot had been relayed to her about what was said but that she could hear some of the comments, particularly when Mayor Mark Radford began to raise his voice.
"I just thought the mayor tried to deal with what a really difficult situation," she said.
Cr Grimble told the Mail-Times he did not take offence at the comments made about him in Cr Clarke's email.
"There's a little bit of politicising involved," he said. "I've got thick skin and broad shoulders.
"I believe my actions speak louder than words."
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