Thursday, April 25, 2024

Kiama council summoned to Supreme Court

Kiama Municipal Council has been summoned to appear in the Supreme Court.

The summons relates to Council’s decision in November last year to censure Councillor Karen Renkema-Lang (pictured), the Council said in a statement issued this evening.

Councillors voted 5 to 2 to censure Cr Renkema-Lang for breaching Clause 3.1a and Clause 3.1c of the Code of Conduct, following a complaint received by Council.

“As many in the community will understand, Council cannot comment on specific legal matters whilst they are on foot,” the Council stated.

“The use of public rate payers funds in defending this course of legal action is regrettable, especially when considered in terms of the current financial circumstances of the Council.

“The summons states the Councillor is seeking costs from Council.”

The Council says it has so far spent more than $20,000 on the complaint concerning Cr Renkema-Lang.

“The Councillor could have chosen to appeal the decision of Council using the prescribed methods outlined in the Procedure above or the Code of Meeting Practice.”

“Specifically, the Councillor could have chosen to either: 1. Use Part 8 of the Procedures for the Administration of the Code of Conduct called “Oversight and Rights of Review” and sought an appeal. 2. Lodge a rescission motion in line with the Code of Meeting Practice (as described in Section 17 Decisions of Council (page 32).”

Neither of these methods would have required the use of additional rate payer funds, the Council said.

“The organisation is currently experiencing an extreme amount of pressure and stress associated with well documented financial and governance matters. Legal fees for the organisation are already excessive and this new matter does create an additional financial burden on the business,” said Council CEO, Jane Stroud.

The Supreme Court summons comes just days after the Council received notice of NSW Minister for Local Government, Ron Hoenig’s intention to issue a variation to a Performance Improvement Order (PIO).

Kiama Mayor Neil Reilly says the Minister’s letter recognised the substantial financial challenges facing the Council and acknowledged the steps already taken to address the matters that gave rise to the issuance of the PIO in November 2022.

The letter was accompanied by a report from John Rayner, who was appointed by the Minister to conduct a review, which was completed in January.

“The report from Mr Rayner contains poignant findings that echo the numerous briefings and reports provided to Council and the community on a range of governance and financial matters since January 2022. It is a factual and fair appraisal of Council’s situation however uncomfortable it is to read,” said Ms Stroud.

“We welcome the Minister’s letter and the Rayner report, which confirms the hard work already undertaken by Council in addressing matters set out in the PIO. However, we also agree that there is still much to be done,” added Mayor Reilly.

The Rayner review makes it plain that collective action to protect Council and its financial sustainability is required and continuation of the PIO will bind this Council, future candidates and ultimately the next incoming Council, Council said in a statement.

“The news that the Minister has not yet imposed further sanctions or moved to appoint a financial controller is also welcomed,” said Mayor Reilly.

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