Latrobe City Mayor-elect Dale Harriman has played down controversy surrounding his election to the top position on Monday night.
Opposing mayoral candidate Cr Kellie O’Callaghan has called on Local Government Minister Tim Bull to investigate, after Cr Harriman was elected following a delayed start to the meeting.
“Despite the absence of one councillor, there was a quorum for the meeting, that is, the majority of the council was in place at 5pm,” Cr O’Callaghan said.
“Rather than commencing the meeting as advertised at 5pm, the acting CEO sought to delay the commencement to accommodate the late arrival of the councillor. I cannot recall any other situation where the CEO would endeavour to delay a vote if there was a quorum.”
During the meeting, Mr Mitchell asked if council wanted to move an adjournment to allow Cr Michael Rossiter to arrive, so all nine councillors would be in attendance.
Council unanimously voted for the adjournment to occur and the meeting resumed when Cr Rossiter arrived.
Nominations were taken, the vote was carried and Cr Harriman won over Cr O’Callaghan, five votes to four.
Had the vote gone ahead without Cr Rossiter a tied result may have ensued, in which case the mayor would have been determined by the candidates drawing paper with the word ‘elected’ from a bag.
Cr O’Callaghan said the delay was a “deviation from good governance practice” and has called for Mr Mitchell to explain his actions in delaying the meeting.
However, Cr Harriman said the delayed start and subsequent adjournment did not seem out of the ordinary or unreasonable.
“It’s happened before that, we’ve had council meetings that haven’t started right on time,” the mayor said.
“I think when discussing and voting on important issues it’s important that all those elected by the ratepayers are allowed to attend to have their say for the ratepayers that elected them.
Cr Harriman added Cr Rossiter was late due to a glitch on his iPad calendar, which reported the meeting’s start time as 6pm.
Mr Mitchell said the meeting’s events were in line with the Local Government Act.
A Local Government Victoria spokesperson said the conduct of council meetings was at the discretion of council.
“Whether a council follows its own local law on such procedures is a matter for the council,” the spokesperson said.