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Council top post claimed by two

Date

Noel Towell

Matthew Watts, left, and Shirley Gourgaud.

Matthew Watts, left, and Shirley Gourgaud.

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.''

3 comments

  • Who cares, what has the BCC done of any worthwhile for the Belconnen community anyway.
    I have lived in the Belconnen area for two decades and never heard of it until this dust up.

    Commenter
    NITRO GANGSTER
    Location
    ACT
    Date and time
    November 22, 2012, 8:15AM
    • I don’t think there is any doubt as to the validity of the AGM election. The BCC Constitution is what guides BCC actions and it states:

      "3.3 A person who is a Member of the Legislative Assembly, or is a Member of Parliament (MHR or Senator) for any electorate covering all or part of the area known as Belconnen is deemed to be a member of BCC, irrespective of other qualifications or lack thereof for membership, but may not hold an executive position in BCC. A person who is an officebearer in a known or registered political party may not hold an executive position in BCC, unless declaring the office prior to declaration."

      Matt declared his membership of a political party, and his candidacy. He does not hold any ‘office’ in any political party.

      Also, the email of 11 Sep 2012 announcing the AGM asked the following:

      Nominations should be received by email to (public officer) no later than 15th September 2012.

      There is no provision for this under the BCC constitution. Nominations can simply be received from the floor, and often are. In any event, it says “should” not “must”.

      The public officer accepted the late nomination after checking the constitution, and the election took place.

      The Office of Regulatory Services advice was that the BCC Constitution is in effect. The Model Rules only apply if there is no Constitution. It is not 'Pick a rule'.

      If Ms Gourgaud has different advice which supports her position - where is it ? Has the CT seen it ?

      Commenter
      BCC member
      Date and time
      November 22, 2012, 8:40AM
      • Isn't it strange that during the AGM a certain female ALP member for Ginninderra was furiously texting her "media contacts" allegingnthat the meeting was stacked, yet known members of the ALP actually voted for Mat at that same meeting. The plot thickens...

        Commenter
        Irritable
        Date and time
        November 22, 2012, 5:48PM
        Comments are now closed
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