ACT News


Council top post claimed by two

The battle for control of the Belconnen Community Council has taken a bizarre turn with two council members now claiming the title of president.

The presidency appeared on Tuesday evening to have changed hands again after a council meeting declared September's controversial election result to be invalid.

Long-serving council president Shirley Gourgaud, ousted in contentious circumstances in September, was reinstated at Tuesday's meeting after the presidency of former Canberra Liberals' Assembly candidate Matthew Watts was declared void.

But Mr Watts struck back on Wednesday, claiming he, and not Ms Gourgaud, was the one true president. Both claimants to the council presidency now say they have advice from the Office of Regulatory Services (ORS), the government agency that administers incorporated bodies in the territory, that backs their case.

Mr Watts won the position at the council's September annual meeting amid allegations the public servant, who was a Liberals candidate in the territory election, stacked the meeting with his friends and supporters and ambushed the committee with a late nomination for the president's role.

Ms Gourgaud said on Wednesday the council had been advised by the ORS that the September election, and Mr Watts's nomination, was not in accordance with the council's rules.


Ms Gourgaud said she and her supporters had been working for two months on overturning the September result.

She said they had been advised by the ORS that Mr Watts' nomination for president, declared just minutes before the September vote, was invalid.

''I think the whole thing is terribly unfortunate,'' Ms Gourgaud said. ''The Belconnnen Community Council exists to provide a voice for residents regardless of who they vote for, not for individuals to further their personal agendas.''

But Mr Watts rejected Ms Gourgaud's version of events.

''In September, an annual general meeting was held at which Mr Matt Watts was elected president. Several weeks later, the outgoing president and several other members unhappy at the election result announced that the ex-president was still president,'' his statement, issued on Wednesday, read.

Mr Watts said the September election was held according to the council's constitution, that the result remained valid and that his opponents were running a ''social club''.

''By accepting this nomination, in accordance with the BCC constitution, the outcome was legitimate,'' Mr Watts said.

''This is a sad and unfortunate situation brought about by the failure of some people to recognise the results of an election.

''While these people have been agitating to ensure that their social club continued, the new president has already taken steps to work on the agenda he put forward at the September AGM.''


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