IN A first for Horsham Rural City Council, a mutual respect charter has been passed.
Based on the Stonnington City Council's recent document, the Mutual Respect Charter proactively promotes the highest standards on integrity in local councils, including appropriate, respectful behaviour.
Previous discussions held by councillors helped develop the charter for Horsham Rural City Council.
Horsham Rural City Council mayor Robyn Gulline said it was designed to protect staff while doing their jobs.
"We started discussing this back in February," she said.
"We had some reports of outdoor staff being abused by community members and we have a duty of care to our staff that they have a safe workplace."
IN OTHER NEWS:
The Charter sets out a shared responsibility for:
- Safe workplace expectations for our staff in dealing with the community and our customers
- Our commitment to serving the community and what people can expect when interacting with the council and its staff
Cr Gulline said it was an expectation when coming to council with issues.
"If you've got a problem, we're happy to work with you," she said.
"But if you're angry, you're irrational, (then) I can't help you and solve your problem.
"So calm down, and then come back and we can discuss it."
Cr Gulline said mutual respect is something councillors promise to the community from themselves but expect back.
"In a civil society, we all should be treating people with respect," she said.
Motion of dissent for mayoral ruling
Council procedures were questioned when Cr Gulline brought in a new rule for question limitation for clarifying agenda items.
Councillors would be allowed to ask one question to council officers before an agenda recommendation was debated during the council meeting.
Councillor Ian Ross brought a motion of dissent after Cr Gulline made a ruling regarding the question limitation. Councillor Di Bell seconded the motion.
Councillor Claudia Haenel was voted in for temporary chair for the dissent motion.
Cr Ross said the ruling was outside the governance rules.
"You can't make up rules as you go along," he said. "It's a breach of the act."
Cr Ross said the mayor doesn't have the power to make such changes.
Cr Bell agreed, saying such a ruling wouldn't allow for informed decision making.
Councillor Penny Flynn said Cr Guilline emailed the change to all councillors the previous week.
She said she "didn't believe this motion of dissent was appropriate" and that "any issues should have been apparent before the meeting."
Council chief executive Sunil Bhalla clarified.
"I don't believe there is any change to governance rules," he said. "This still allows free debate."
Under the Governance Rules for Horsham Rural City Council under Right to Ask Questions, section 42.2 states:
"The Chair has the right to limit questions and direct that debate be commenced or resumed."
The dissent motion against the question limitation ruling was lost.
Cr Gulline's original ruling of now allowing one question per councillor to the council officers before the debate will be in place.
Each councillor will be asked if they have a question regarding the recommendations, or agenda item and then the debate will proceed.
Cr Gulline speaks post meeting
Cr Gulline said she had no idea there would be a motion of dissent.
"It was the first I knew there was a problem," she said.
"We had a conversation last week about the length of the briefings.
"I try to give the opportunity to exhaust all questions, which is the whole purpose of the briefings.
"There are plenty of opportunities."
She said the purpose of the question limitation was to allow for a clearer debate that would be easier to follow without disrupting questions to council officers.
"Everyone was getting totally confused," she said.
"We are now able to clarify at the beginning and then we're able to speak."
Cr Gulline said this question limit is only in a trial stage, and the council will see how it works over the next few council meetings.
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