Merv King.
Merv King. David Nielsen

Ridges row gets legal

LISMORE ratepayers will pay for the legal advice on whether some councillors breached their code of conduct by skipping meetings on a controversial McLeans Ridges rezoning.

The motion was put by Cr Brian Henry who said the council had an obligation to show the public that when an issue was raised it investigated it in a 'proper manner'.

It sparked a heated debate, with Cr Ros Irwin saying, “We could have ended this term (of the council) in reasonable equanimity, but you made sure that we didn't. The motion is factually wrong, quite divisive and unnecessary.”

The motion orders general manager Paul O'Sullivan to seek legal advice on whether councillors Jenny Dowell, Vanessa Ekins, Ros Irwin and Frank Swientek breached the code of conduct in not attending one or more of the meetings held on July 15, 22 and 29, and whether Cr Graham Meineke still had a conflict of interest when he attended the July 29 meeting.

Cr Swientek, who was in Sydney for the first of the three meetings and attended the other two, was incensed that his name was included. He tried to have it amended, saying it was inaccurate.

“If Cr Henry wants to get legal advice don't inflict it on the ratepayers of Lismore. Pay for it yourself,” he said.

Cr Swientek said missing a meeting did not breach the code and questioned Cr Henry's attendance record, calling it 'the worst of all the councillors'.

When Cr Dowell asked if Cr Henry could say which section of the code was breached, he replied: “No, not specifically by clause.”

Cr Dowell read from the code, which says if a councillor believes a breach has occurred, they must report it in writing to the general manager.

Mayor Merv King initially seemed opposed to the motion, arguing Cr Swientek should be excluded and that only Cr Meineke could say if he had a conflict of interest. However, he eventually voted for it and it was carried seven-to-five, with councillors Dowell, Tomlinson, Irwin, Swientek and Ekins voting against.

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