Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Hobart Lord Mayor sanctioned over ugly public meeting incident

Tasmania’s Local Government Code of Conduct Panel has determined that Hobart Lord Mayor, Anna Reynolds, breached the code of conduct for councillors during a confrontation at a public meeting last year.

The Panel heard the Lord Mayor grabbed the arm of now Hobart Councillor, Louise Elliot, called her a liar and used the word “bulls..t” when speaking to her at the meeting. Ms Elliot had just finished making a speech in which she opposed Council’s support of the controversial relocation of the University of Tasmania to Hobart CBD.

Ms Elliot speaking at the public meeting, with Hobart Lord Mayor, Anna Reynolds seated in front row, with white face mask, at right of photo.

The contact between the two was off-stage and not caught on camera, but footage from the event does show the Lord Mayor shaking her head several times as Ms Elliot spoke, and also turning her head to make comments to someone behind her.

The Panel was unable to find compelling corroborative evidence that Cr Reynolds’ contact with Ms Elliot amounted to a “forceful grab” but did determine contact was made that was sufficient to stop her returning to her seat.

The Lord Mayor seen making a comment over her shoulder during Ms Elliot’s speech.

Cr Reynolds was found to have breached the council’s code of conduct on a number of points.

At the Panel hearing, Cr Reynolds admitted that she used the word “bulls..t” in her discussion with Ms Elliot following her speech but denied calling her a liar.

She also agreed that she shook her head at times during the speech and that she discussed what Ms Elliot was saying in a private conversation with Deputy Mayor, Helen Burnett, who was seated next to her.

Councillor Elliot (pictured, below) today said she was thankful the process was finally resolved and that the Panel had upheld her complaint.

“The Lord Mayor admitted she made a “mistake” but has not owned the full extent of her behaviour and has downplayed her conduct as not being “serious”. I disagree and I believe that most reasonable people would too.”

“Unfortunately, the process has been very protracted due to what I view as intentional delaying tactics by Councillor Reynolds to avoid this finding being public before the last Council election.

“Getting physical with someone is a whole other level, it’s not a misstep on social media. A caution for physically manhandling someone to the point where assault charges were laid is a disturbing precedent, but that’s where the bar is now set.”

Cr Elliot made a complaint to police following the meeting. Cr Reynolds was subsequently charged with assault, with the charge later dropped by police.

The Panel wrote to Cr Reynolds last month to invite her to make a submission regarding what sanction should be applied. She responded a fortnight later, stating that it was her view that no sanction should apply.

“Cr Reynolds contended that in her view the breach was not serious and that her behaviour
was a “mistake”, and she has altered her behaviour accordingly. Furthermore, she added that she had apologised for her behaviour at the time of the incident,” the Code of Conduct Panel stated.

“However, as the Panel found that the Code had been breached, it considers it is appropriate to apply a sanction.

“Cr Reynolds is an experienced elected member and mayor and by her own admission, should not have approached Ms Elliot during the public meeting in the way the Panel has found she did.”

While the Panel accepted that Cr Reynolds made an apology to Ms Elliot in the days following the incident, it determined that a caution was an appropriate sanction.

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