CEO slams meeting behaviour after mayor walks out

The Robe CEO has slammed the behaviour of those at this week's fiery council meeting.

The tense monthly council meeting reached flashpoint when the mayor Peter Riseley walked out after a heated debate on Tuesday night, telling the councillors they could finish the meeting themselves.

CEO Roger Sweetman has issued a statement to the Leader decrying the behaviour at the meeting, particularly those in the public gallery.

“The behaviour at the recent council meeting was extremely disappointing,” he said. “It in no way contributes to the better government of the district or better informed decision-making.

“This behaviour is often justified by the need for transparency, accountability and is called rigorous debate when in fact it is none of those, it is simply disrespectful, unprofessional bad behaviour given tacit approval and encouraged by other members of the community who champion and applaud those who act in this way.

“I can only hope sanity prevails and behaviour improves.”

There was simmering tension throughout the meeting, but the unrest was brought to head by a heated discussion over an ongoing Robe esplanade cliff face issue. That led to:

  • Crs John Enright and David Loxton arguing over meeting procedure.
  • Mayor Peter Riseley unsuccessfully trying to advance the meeting, then walking out, saying: “I am going home, I’m sick of it”.
  • Resident Tony Bishop applauding his departure from the public gallery.
  • Mr Bishop being rebuked and refusing to leave the room after being asked, saying the police would have to remove him.

Mr Riseley’s dramatic decision to walk out on the meeting was exacerbated when Mr Bishop stood in the public gallery and applauded his departure. 

Mr Bishop was asked to quieten down and leave the meeting, however he refused, saying: “You want to get the police around and remove me?”

Earlier in the discussion about the esplanade cliff, Cr Loxton said: “Council should consider some remedial work and have costings. 

“Certainly we will need some signs but we should consider some remedial work. We don’t need any more engineer reports, we need to know what we want to do about that road. 

“People will start to wonder what we are actually doing here, we can’t keep spending money, those engineers told me nothing I didn’t already know. We can’t just keep going back to engineers.”

After mutterings from other council members, Cr Loxton said: “Well you come up with some ideas.”

Cr Enright said: “With all due respect I think that we have put the cart before the horse. I’ve just asked the CEO whether there is sufficient info in a previous report for us to to make a decision about what work is to be done and his answer was no.

“So if we proceed…”

He was cut off by Cr Loxton saying: “Point of order Mr mayor, I’ve moved a motion...”

Cr Enright: “Can I please...” 

Cr Loxton: “No I’ve moved a point of order...”

Cr Enright: Can I please finish what I am talking about?”

Cr Loxton: “No, council rules state clearly...” 

Cr Enright: “So you are going to interrupt me?”

Cr Loxton: “No I’m interrupting the meeting, not you, the meeting is the chair at the centre...”

Mayor Riseley was calling for order, however the exchange continued. 

Cr Loxton: “It’s the rules isn’t it Mr Sweetman?”

Mayor Riseley: “You can be as pedantic about meeting procedures as you like but it doesn't actually help to get you to an end point.” 

Cr Loxton: “Well I’m looking at the clock.”

Mayor Riseley: “Well you should have looked at the clock last month. 

Cr Loxton: “Well I’ve just asked the CEO, the adjudicator...” 

“Mayor Riseley: “Do you want to talk about this all night or do you want to…”

Cr Loxton: “It is a rule isn’t it?

Cr Enright: “I could have finished my point several minutes ago.” 

Cr Loxton: “No I moved a point of order, the ruling is a point of order must be dealt with.” 

At this point the mayor stood up and angrily said: “Well you finish the bloody meeting, I am going home, I’m sick of it.” 

“I’ve had a bloody health problem too.” 

The mayor left the room and Mr Bishop in the public gallery stood up and began to clap. 

Cr Enright said: “Don’t be ridiculous Tony.”

Mr Bishop called back: “It is good that you have moved on, I’m very happy about that. 

Cr Alison Nunan: “Come on.” 

Cr Enright: “It’s inappropriate.” 

Mr Bishop: “Maybe you as elected members better start representing the bloody ratepayers.”

At this point he was asked to leave the room by deputy mayor Harvey Nolan.

Mr Bishop: “I’m more than happy to.” 

He began to gather his things before changing his mind, saying: “You want to get the police around and remove me?”

Cr Nolan said: “No I don’t want to do that.”

Mr Bishop: “Well maybe you had better.”

Cr Nolan: “I would like you to appreciate the situation and please have some decorum in the gallery.”

Mr Bishop sat back down and did not leave the meeting.

​Cr Nolan took over the mayor’s chair for the remainder of the meeting.