A request to grant certain Alexandrina councillors membership to a local ratepayers action group has been denied after fellow elected members deemed it would be a conflict of interest.
At its January 15 meeting of council, the Goolwa and District Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association offered honorary membership to the Mayor and the four Goolwa to Hindmarsh Island Ward councillors.
The membership would allow mayor Keith Parkes and councillors Karen Lume, Jim Davis, Frank Tuckwell and James Stewart to attend all meetings and to take part in all discussions.
However, as they would not pay fees, they would also have no voting rights.
When the request was up for discussion, Goolwa Ward councillor Karen Lume said she did not want voting rights in the group, but she did want to have her say.
“As an elected member we are welcome to attend any meeting anyway... I don’t see the difference in having honorary membership and being a visitor to a meeting,” she said.
However, James Stewart, another councillor offered honorary membership, said he also did not support it as he felt it could “open a can of worms”.
Deputy Mayor Madeleine Walker, of the Port Elliot to Middleton Ward, said it was entirely inappropriate for councillors to join the group.
“Goolwa already has a very high representation here at council and this particular group has responded quite negatively to council’s decisions in the past,” she said.
“I think this would only benefit the action group and I feel very uncomfortable about it.”
Councillor Barry Featherston of the Angas Bremer Ward said he did not think council had the right to appoint elected members to another organisation as the action group was not a section 41 committee, connected to council.
Councillor Ben Brazzalotto also said he felt it would be a conflict of interest and that elected members could be put at risk of negative perception.
When put to a vote, the motion to grant the four councillors and the mayor honorary membership was lost.
Following the decision, Mayor Keith Parkes said the decision would not impact his and the four oter councillors decisions to attend the group’s meetings.
“Some of us have been paying members of that group for some time and the group was offering us free membership because we don’t have the ability to vote which is very nice,” he said.
He said it was important to attend the meetings and discover what the group thinks of certain issues.
“They’re a quite a constructive group so they’re good to listen to… they’re not a beat council to death group, they are focused on things can be done to benefit their community,” he said.
“I respect the decision of the chamber, it doesn’t bother me… I think it was about trying to encourage councillors to have a view of the whole area and not just their own ward and I understand that Goolwa/ Hindmarsh Island has four councillors while other areas only have one or two.”