Secret council meeting on home sale
LISMORE City councillors held a confidential meeting on Tuesday night to discuss its controversial auction of invalid pensioner Christine Anderson's house for unpaid rates last month.
While councillors were told not to publicly discuss the contents of the meeting, it is understood it was to find a solution to the problem that has tarnished the council's reputation since the auction became public.
Councillors have repeatedly told The Northern Star that while they do not believe the council breached any laws in selling the house to recoup the $16,000 in unpaid rates, it was not the outcome they wanted.
The settlement date for the South Lismore home, which was sold as "vacant procession", is June 10.
A lawyer with Slater and Gordon has previously told The Northern Star that the sale of Ms Anderson's home may have breached contracts law as she believed she had entered a legally enforceable payment plan with the council.
A family friend of Ms Anderson, David Slatter, said that he and his wife met with the council's debt collection officer and believed they had agreed on a payment plan for the unpaid rates before the auction.
He said she had even made a payment as part of that agreement days before the auction.
The council denies there was an agreed payment plan. It says it made numerous attempts over 14 years to recoup the money.
Lismore City Council is not the only council seizing and selling land to recover unpaid rates.
At least 23 councils have listed more than 330 properties for auction over the past 15 months as the overdue rate debts of councils surged to $236 million across NSW in 2008/09.
According to a NSW Department of Local Government report for 2008/09, slightly more than one-in-10 Lismore ratepayers are in arrears.
This is double the state average and means Lismore rates 11th in the state for the highest level of outstanding rates.