Anyone who believed Cr. Charlie Prell was not entitled to be involved in windfarm debates in Upper Lachlan Shire Council could make a legal challenge – but it was Cr. Prell’s responsibility to decide whether he had a pecuniary interest in particular matters.
This point was made by Mayor Cr. John Shaw at last week’s meeting.
The meeting received a submission from Mr. Malcolm Barlow highly critical of a submission proposing a Windfarm Association made to the previous meeting by Mr. Chris Durrant, and also critical of Cr. Prell being permitted to take part in Council in the debates on the the Durrant proposal.
Cr. Shaw added: “I can’t expel Cr. Prell from meetings, and he has advised on non-pecuniary interest in windfarms, and thus is allowed to stay in Council.
” We have been advised by senior Counsel that what Council and Cr. Prell are doing is correct procedure.”
Cr. Shaw told Mr. Barlow: “If you don’t believe we are doing is not legal and that justice is not being served, you can take it to the Local Government Department.”
In his submission, which he presented personally, Mr. Barlow wrote: “Amazingly, Cr. Prell was allowed to contribute substantially to the debate on this (Durrant) document and its proposal.
“Of course, his remarks were all glowingly supportive and showed no insight into the fiction and flaws (it contained).
“It is a widely held view that Cr. Prell has an obvious pecuniary interest in the proliferation of windfarms in this Shire, because the more that are proposed and approved the greater will be the possibility of getting his project up and running,
“As a reasonable person it is my view (without any aspersions upon Cr. Prell’s integrity) that Cr. Prell’s pecuniary interest in the topic is so obvious that the General Manager should have advised the Mayor to order him from the Chamber when this topic arose.”
Cr. Shaw read a letter from the Department of Local Government stating that ultimately it was the responsibility of the Councillor to assess whether they have a pecuniary or non-pecuniary conflict of interest, and for the Councillor to decide whether to leave the chamber.
The Director General of the Local Government Department had advised: “If you believe that a Councillor has breached the pecuniary interest provisions of the Local Government Act, you should notify me of these allegations to enable appropriate action to be taken.
Cr. Prell said that in the period when matters pertaining to the windfarm on his property, where he had a pecuniary interest, came before Council, he had always absented himself from the meeting.
He added that he had advice from a senior lawyer that he was entitled to sit on Council on all other matters, and in fact had a duty to do so.
Later in the meeting, Cr. Brian McCormack commented that the development for Cr. Prell’s property had already been approved, and that he was therefore entitled to remain in Council on other windfarm debates.
30 January 2008
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