Mediator needed to sort out Coorong councillors

The Coorong council meets last Tuesday night. Photo: Peri Strathearn.
The Coorong council meets last Tuesday night. Photo: Peri Strathearn.

Mediators will be brought in to help the Coorong's councillors sort out their differences after 10 months of instability.

The move was prompted by former staff member Brendon Corby, who unloaded his concerns at a council meeting last Tuesday only hours after leaving his employment.

The formation of the Coorong Ratepayers Action Group and election of six new councillors had led to "significant upheaval", he said, and the extra scrutiny had led an "abnormal" number of staff to quit.

As a result, the remaining staff were finding it hard to perform the functions they were required to by law, let alone get anything else done, he said.

He urged councillors to end their "disunity", and for each to take ownership of his or her own actions.

"The solution to this problem is right here in this room," he said.

"We need to demonstrate and be seen to own a cohesive team environment: Team Coorong.

"Personal differences are not important.

"I think people have forgotten they're here to benefit the ratepayer."

He said a recent review of the council's staff culture had failed to highlight the main concern of those who worked there: councillors' attitudes.

"A lot of what staff said wasn't covered in the report, whether by omission or intent," he said.

Councillors later agreed to bring in a mediator and end what Mayor Paul Simmons acknowledged had been "a difficult period".

Cr Sharon Bland said she felt the council chamber had not been safe, for councillors or staff, since the 2018 election.

"It saddens me, after 10 years (on the council)," she said.

"After any robust debate I've been able to get up and have a cup of coffee ... I don't feel that any more.

"We didn't get it right all the time, sometimes we got it wrong, but it was always done with the best intent.

"I'd like to get back to that."

After all, she said, three years still remained until the next election.

Cr Tracy Hill said councillors needed to leave their personal grudges at the door.

"There's nothing wrong with robust disagreement, but some of these distractions have been very wearing," she said.

The only other way the council could move forward, Cr Simmons suggested, would be to complete its current search for a new CEO.

That is expected to take several more months.

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