FOUR of Latrobe City Mayor Sandy Kam’s peers have publicly backed her decision to remain in the position in the wake of calls for her to step down.
Councillors Sharon Gibson, Dale Harriman, Kellie O’Callaghan and Michael Rossiter yesterday said Cr Kam had their full support.
Some councillors came to her defence over accusations she was not working hard enough to retain Monash University in Gippsland and had gone against the official position of the council on the campus’s merger with the University of Ballarat.
The claims came from councillor Christine Sindt over a media statement the mayor made last week when the two universities announced they would forge ahead with the proposed merger, ignoring formal calls from council to defer the decision.
Cr Kam stated the council was disappointed with the institutions’ move, but it was “important for council to engage in planning for the transition”.
On Saturday Cr Sindt sent an email to her fellow councillors calling for the mayor’s resignation based on the view her “erratic behaviour on the Monash University issue” was in “direct contravention of council resolutions”.
She then made the communication public on Tuesday through social media.
Council had resolved on 8 April to request the universities delay a decision until council and the community had time to fully consider the proposal and other potential options for the future of the Gippsland campus and engage with the vice chancellors of Monash, Ballarat and other universities, along with relevant members of parliament.
Cr Sindt said Cr Kam had failed to attend meetings with Higher Education Minister Peter Hall on 30 April, Federal Member for Gippsland Darren Chester on 6 May and Federal Member for McMillan Russell Broadbent on 8 May.
“She just has not engaged in any way with our local politicians,” Cr Sindt said.
“(Monash University Vice Chancellor) Ed Byrne stated he was open to further meetings and nothing happened.
“The mayor has a full-time salary and mayoral car and she should be going to those meetings.”
Cr Sindt said she felt Cr Kam had moved on to working with UB when council had “not resolved all the issues with Monash University” and accused her of “sitting on” correspondence from Professor Byrne for 10 days before sharing it with fellow councillors.
“Although she’s lovely and people like her, she doesn’t have the political nous to look after our interests,” Cr Sindt said.
Cr Sindt hoped other councillors would join her in pressuring the mayor to step down.
Councillors Darrell White, Graeme Middlemiss and Peter Gibbons did not respond to The Express.
Cr Kam admitted she had not attended the meetings in question, but disputed she had contravened her role as mayor and made decisions out of line with council’s resolutions.
“Part of council’s resolution was to write to various members of parliament, which I did,” Cr Kam said.
“Some offered to meet with us at a time that suited them. I had other arrangements, however I did speak to some members away from the meeting.”
Cr Kam said other councillors attended the meetings and she had “full confidence” they would adequately express the views of council.
She said she had met with the vice chancellors of both universities, covering another aspect of the resolution.
“My comment is in line with the second part of the resolution which is to fully consider models and options,” Cr Kam said.
“We have to now, as a council, work out what is our position and how do we advocate from this point on?”
Cr Kam said she had complied with Latrobe City’s councillor code of conduct which allows the mayor to speak on behalf of council when a matter is of a controversial or sensitive nature.