Friday, 2nd September, 2011
By Darrin Manuel
Councillors are set to undertake conflict resolution training amidst claims of a deepening rift between Mayor Wincen Cuy and several councillors.
A motion to undertake the training was raised by Clr Tom Kennedy and passed at Wednesday night’s ordinary monthly meeting of Council.
Clr Kennedy said he had suggested the training due to ongoing conflict between the Mayor and councillors Neville Gasmier, Bob Algate and himself.
He said his relationship with the Mayor had deteriorated to the point that they were no longer on speaking terms.
The BDT understands the breakdown has occurred due to comments made by Clr Kennedy on ABC radio last month regarding the running of Council’s Shorty O’Neil Village.
Clr Kennedy said he subsequently received a letter from the Mayor’s lawyer regarding the comments.
“It resulted in him threatening me with legal action for what he believed was defamatory comments,” he said.
Mr Kennedy voiced concerns yesterday that the Mayor’s willingness to pursue legal action rather than discuss the situation could set a poor precedent for how Council operates.
“It doesn’t create an atmosphere where people feel free to debate issues and it impacts on the ability of councillors to work together.
“I didn’t even know he was aggrieved; the first I knew about it was when I got the lawyer’s letter.
“It’s just not the way to do things, and if that becomes the norm, we’re going to have letters flying around left, right and centre. It’s not the way council should operate.
“Up until this time Win has been very good with this type of thing, and I have a lot of respect for him as a person so I was surprised he took this action.”
However Mayor Cuy said he was forced to take action against Mr Kennedy on a personal level due to the comments on the ABC, and stressed that it was separate to Council business.
The Mayor said Mr Kennedy had suggested on radio that he was “doing deals” to make money from a proposal to switch aged care licences from Shorty O’Neil Village to a proposed new facility at the former Alma Pool site.
“The comments he made were in the public arena and I, and many other people, took offence to them,” he said.
“I sought some advice and I was advised to go down this pathway.
“We’d discussed the (Shorty O’Neil) issue in Council and he was outvoted six to two, and he then chose to go outside what Council was saying.
“I believe he was handing out misinformation and what he said about me was unacceptable.”
Mayor Cuy said he was disappointed that Mr Kennedy had chosen to make the legal matter public knowledge.
“I held it in a personal light rather than something involving Council, and I would have preferred to keep it between Tom and myself but he’s put it into the public arena.
“If I now don’t defend myself publicly people might say that I am making deals.”
The Mayor also dismissed suggestions that the stoush heralds a return to the infighting that plagued the previous Council which was sacked in 2007.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous - in fact it’s not ridiculous, it’s not even in the same context.
“I have no problems at all with the way Council is running, and I think it showed at last night’s meeting.
“Everyone was talking, the meeting was held in a cordial and obliging manner ... It isn’t an issue, and it won’t be an issue.”
Personal disputes aside, both Clr Kennedy and Mayor Cuy agreed that the conflict resolution training would be of benefit to all councillors, and could be applied to various situations they faced in their roles.
“It could be invaluable when dealing with the community and management of Council,” said Mr Kennedy.
“It’s something Councillors can use in an everyday official sense.”
He said the idea had received strong support from councillor Dave Gallagher, who explained that he had seen the benefits of such training as a police officer.
“I was very impressed with the way Dave put it across. I hadn’t really thought of it in that way,” said Clr Kennedy.