Richmond Valley councillor and Local Government NSW patron Col Sullivan.
Richmond Valley councillor and Local Government NSW patron Col Sullivan. Cathy Adams

'I was listening, not sleeping': councillor hits back

WE CAN all relate to the agony of trying to keep your eyelids open in public when the sleep bear overcomes us.

But few have been photographed with our eyes shut and had the pictures splashed over page three of a major newspaper.

Richmond Valley councillor Col Sullivan was forced to endure the ignominy of just that after a Newscorp photographer captured him with his eyes closed this week during Premier Mike Baird's speech at the annual Local Government NSW conference at Coffs Harbour.

The photos were used in a Daily Telegraph story which juxtaposed several pictures, of what appeared to be slumbering councillors, with the immense challenges facing local councils.

Cr Sullivan - a decorated and long-serving councillor who is celebrating 40 years of service to local government this year - reckoned the Sydney paper's tactic was a pretty low blow.

"It's pretty ordinary what they've done," he said.

"Number one I wasn't asleep, and number two that was after four hours of sitting on a hard seat.

"I was listening to the Premier... I was listening to what he had to say because that's why I went down there."

Daily Telegraph page 3, Col Sullivan allegedly asleep at the local government conference in Coffs Harbour. Photo Contributed
Daily Telegraph page 3, Col Sullivan allegedly asleep at the local government conference in Coffs Harbour. Photo Contributed Contributed

Delegates at the conference spent 14 hours cooped up at the Coffs Harbour C.ex club, a venue Cr Sullivan said was overcrowded and too hot.

A former president of Local Government NSW who spent 14 years on its executive committee, Cr Sullivan also pointed out he was an invited guest to the conference, not a voting delegate.

The 77-year old was in fact honoured at the conference with a standing ovation for his four decades of service.

A gentleman pictured next to Cr Sullivan with his eyes closed was another LGNSW patron, 84-year old Doug Sutherland, the former Lord Mayor of Sydney.

Cr Sullivan said he wasn't impressed but neither was he surprised by the pictures.

"They did a story on local government at Coffs Harbour a few years ago... where they photographed a lot of people down playing the poker machines," he said.

"I think (the photographer) came there with the idea of doing the same thing... because there was nobody playing the poker machines he came down and caught two older gentlemen having a snooze.

"But I thought he could have taken a lot more positive photographs than that one."

Current LGNSW president and Coffs Harbour councillor Keith Rhoades was quoted in the Telegraph saying he was "disgusted" by criticism of Mr Sullivan shutting his eyes during the Premier's speech, because "I know you're thinking deeply about local government and not snoozing".



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