Council called upon to apologise

Speaking out. . . Gore resident Jenny McNamara speaks in the public forum at the Gore District Council on Tuesday ) calling for councillors to publicly apologise to mayor Ben Bell and residents . PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Resident Jenny McNamara is calling on Gore District councillors to publicly apologise for their part in the dispute that has taken centre stage in the district since last year’s election.

In November, Gore Mayor Ben Bell’s plan for a sixcommittee structure with five portfolios was not well received by councillors nor was his first choice of deputy mayor Stewart MacDonell.

In March, councillors learned there had been a breakdown in the relationship between Mr Bell and chief executive Stephen Parry and councillor Richard McPhail was appointed as an intermediary between the two.

In April, Gore councillors supported an independent review aimed at restoring confidence in the council.

Long-standing councillor Brett Highsted also resigned.

In May, seven councillors called for Mr Bell’s resignation, saying they had lost confidence in him and his ability to act in the best interests of the community and council as a whole.

However, a few days later councillors withdrew the call and pledged to find common ground for the council to move forward.

In September, the planned review was shelved.

Mrs McNamara was given five minutes of public forum time at last week’s council meeting.

The public’s faith in the council needed to be restored after the planned independent review was abandoned, she said.

‘‘The public very much need to be reassured that there will not only be no reversion to the long-standing dispute, but also no reversion to the alleged culture of bullying at both management and governance level at Gore District Council.’’

She believed a public apology was the best way forward.

Councillors should apologise to Mr Bell, she said.

‘‘Such an apology is likely to be much appreciated by your constituents as Mr Bell has gained much support and popularity during the dispute.’’

Councillors should also apologise to the public ‘‘for both the time the dispute has taken up and for erosion of the public’s trust’’.

She noted Mr Bell had already apologised to residents after the results of the annual survey which showed low confidence in the council’s leadership.

The apologies would help the council make a fresh beginning, she said.

It would show residents councillors were prepared to be accountable for their actions.

It was also prove councillors were prepared to move on in a more productive way and regretted their actions, she said.