Weasel word leads to trouble
A FIERY debate over recent 'inappropriate' behaviour by Cr Margaret Howes kept her Ballina colleagues on their toes for about an hour and a half on Thursday. The controversial representative is in the council's 'bad books' and not for the first time after being found guilty of breaching its Code of Conduct. Cr Howes was reported to the conduct committee by fellow councillor Keith Johnson for an alleged personal attack on a member of the public and for inappropriate behaviour. The complaint stated Cr Howes referred to a member of the public as a 'little weasel' and that she used her position as a councillor to attack a ratepayer who was raising questions about her developments during public question time at a council meeting. According to Cr Howes the complaints were ridiculous, but on recommendation of the conduct committee, the council on Thursday voted to give Cr Howes a letter warning her that continuation of such behaviour could lead to suspension. However, some councillors doubted the warning letter would have any affect. "It will just be like water off a duck's back to her. Her behaviour was disgusting and we find Council being laughed at because of the behaviour that goes on," Cr Alan Brown said. "She should have been dealt with more seriously than this." However, general manager Paul Hickey said the decision was the outcome of a 'very thorough and fair process'. Cr Howes seemed to take the warning with a grain of salt. "I'll just file it with the rest," she said. "Surely council resources could be better used than on something ridiculous like this." The incident follows a breach of the code by Cr Howes last year over letters published in The Northern Star's Opinions pages. She received another warning letter on that occasion.