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Ratepayers to Foot the Bill for Councillor Squabbling

Sep 12, 2023

Hawkesbury Council General Manager Liz Richardson has branded relationships between popularly elected councillors as ”fractured” and has engaged outside consultants to try and fix the situation in an email to all 12 Hawkesbury City Council (HCC) councillors.

Since the email was sent in May, there has been a public attack by Mayor Sarah McMahon on at least three councillors and she has successfully campaigned for the Liberal Party to suspend Councillor Nathan Zamprogno from the organisation where she sits on the NSW State Executive. Cr Zamprogno has branded Cr McMahon a bully and Cr McMahon has claimed Cr Zamprogno is a thief.

“I am aware of the further decline in relationships between councillors over the last few days. I have serious concerns about the capacity of this council to operate effectively where personal relationships have become so fractured that communication cannot be maintained,” Richardson said in an email dated 19 May, 2023 obtained by the Hawkesbury Post under state government GIPA transparency legislation.

“In the same way that I hold expectations of our staff, I think the community expects that its elected representatives would be able to conduct themselves in way (sic) that is respectful and is considerate of each others’ wellbeing,” Richardson said.

Read the General Manger’s email here: https://hawkesburypost.com.au/?page_id=12432&preview=true

HCC General Manager Liz Richardson scalds

She noted that a planned roundtable session was unlikely to be particularly productive. “Hence, I will cancel it. Although you may have different values and beliefs, there is no question in my mind that each Councillor is here to serve the Hawkesbury community and only wants the very best for it.”

“The reality is that we have 16 months left of this term of council, and I think it would be both a more productive and pleasant environment for all of us if we can work constructively together on the 90% of things we all broadly agree on, rather than being tied up in conflict on the matters we don’t,” Richardson said. 

“With this in mind, I have today reached out to a specialist consulting firm who have worked productively with other councils in resolving difficult conflict and conduct issues. I will be back to touch with more detail on this, but would appreciate your participation and an open mind moving forward,” she said.

Ms Richardson’s comments stand in stark contrast to those made by Cr McMahon as part of a 1,500 word late-night post on the Mayor’s Facebook page last week, where she attacked three fellow councillors independents Nathan Zamprogno, Mary Lyons-Buckett and Eddie Dogramaci.

“In fact, here at Hawkesbury City Council, we have a strong and united majority, focused on community outcomes,” Cr McMahon said.

Cr Mary Lyons-Buckett said, “I won’t comment at this stage because we have not yet completed the process.” She added, “we can always improve in what we do!”

A request by the HP to HCC for information on questions about the engagement of consultants and the process – at ratepayers expense – was met with no comment.

In granting access to the information requested by the HP under GIPA, HCC Governance Manager Charles McElroy said, “When considering the request, I first acknowledged the objectives of the GIPA Act, and the position outlined in Section 12 of the Act, which states that:

(1) There is a general public interest in favour of the disclosure of information.

It’s the second time in recent months that the Hawkesbury Post has had to resort to costly and time consuming GIPA applications. These have been made to access information that Ms Richardson’s staff have refused to give in the normal course of media inquiries.

Questions that HCC GM Liz Richardson would not answer from the HP:

Has a consultant been engaged and just what kind of consultants are they?

If so, who are they?

Was there a tender?

What is the cost?

Where is the process up to?

When will they report to management?

When will Council see the report?




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