Some MidCoast Coast councillors express concern over internal confidentiality during Bight Cemetery debate

General manager Adrian Panuccio, mayor David West and director Infrastructure & Engineering Services Robert Scott at the recent meeting in Gloucester.
General manager Adrian Panuccio, mayor David West and director Infrastructure & Engineering Services Robert Scott at the recent meeting in Gloucester.

Things got a little heated between the councillors at the recent MidCoast Council ordinary meeting, with confidentiality coming up as a hot topic.

A passed notice of motion in regard to the damage at Bight Cemetery in Wingham, caused by council workers laying down headstones due to safety concerns, turned into a disclosure of trust among councillors at the meeting held in Gloucester on Wednesday, October 23.

During the public session, when members of the public are invited to talk about items on the agenda, Wingham resident and United Services Union representative, Damien Welsh spoke to the Notice of Rescission brought by councillors Karen Hutchinson, Claire Pontin and Len Roberts.

The notice was in relation to a resolution made by council at the September 25 meeting to undertake an investigation in the Bight Cemetery incident. Councillor Kathern Bell brought forth the motion which asked for a full, un-redacted, independent, external investigation report. The motion was passed eight votes for (Crs David West, Katheryn Smith, Len Roberts, David Keegan, Katheryn Bell, Jan McWilliams, Troy Fowler, Peter Epov, Claire Pontin), one against (Cr Brad Christensen), with Karen Hutchinson not voting as she had left the meeting prior to the motion being raised.

Mr Welsh addressed council in favour of the Notice of Rescission of the resolution, stating concerns about employees' names being leaked to the public.

There was discussion among the councillors about how council's motion was treading on the territory of general manager Adrian Panuccio, whose job it is to conduct an investigation and report to council.

Mr Welsh's concerns raised issues within the council about confidentiality, with mayor David West divulging that some of his personal information had be printed in publications.

"I'm not sure where the information came from," Cr West stated. "But we have a leak in the organisation."

When the matter was brought up for discussion during the meeting, Cr Troy Fowler spoke about his "disgust" over the leaking of information from within council.

There was discussion about protecting the identity of the staff involved and entrusting their faith in Mr Panuccio.

After a lengthy debate, the notion to rescind the September 25 resolution was passed with eight votes for (Crs West, Smith, Roberts, Keegan, Fowler, Pontin, Christensen, and Hutchinson), and three against (Crs Bell, McWilliams and Epov).

After the vote, Cr West addressed the gallery advising that the community will be notified when the council report is completed.

"We don't intend on taking shortcuts," he said.

Mr Panuccio is due to present his report at the November council meeting. The report will include what happened at the Bight Cemetery and what actions will be put in place to ensure it doesn't happens again.