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8 July, 2021

Full time or part time councillor, the candidate’s commitment

WITH early polling opening next Monday for the Cassowary Coast Regional Council Division 6 By-election electors are starting to carefully consider their options.

By Peter McCullagh

One hotly debated issue is whether or not an elected councillor works full-time as a councillor and divests all personal business connections, effectively minimising the perception of a conflict of interest.

This issue dogged the previous council with constant criticism and questions regarding a business relationship between the 2016/2020 Division 6 councillor, Ben Heath and Innisfail Seafoods.

With this fresh in the minds of voters, the candidates standing at this by-election were asked if they believed Cassowary Coast Councillors should be full-time Councillors working for the residents in their divisions as well as the Cassowary Coast region, or can a Councillor maintain separate business interests whilst serving as Councillor?

Responses were mixed. Wayne Kimberley who serves as publican for the El Arish hotel believes it is beneficial for a Councillor to have business interests away from their council role.

”Council is a massive business, with a budget of $83 million a year. We need business owners on Council who have the acumen to oversee that kind of budget.

“Being a Councillor isn’t a career move, it’s a public service. Councillors work beyond full time, they’re always available and their businesses help to keep a finger on the pulse of the community.”

Anthonio Ucchino is a strong advocate for a councillor working full time with no business interests to deflect their work and focus.

“I believe Councillors should work full time as Councillors. They are paid to be Councillors and that is where their focus and loyalty should be.

“It is not a nine to five job. It’s a lot more than that.

“If a councillor is running their own business, they will have less time to give to ratepayer matters, and there will be conflicts of interest.”

Renee McLeod who recently sold her Rankin Street business, Creative Events believes a councillor is more than full time vocation.

“Full time Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm in an office as a Councillor, in my opinion is impractical.

“I believe being out in the community, investing quality time and commitment to the residents is what’s needed.

“Having worked in retail for over 25 years, I know that customer service needs to be the top priority, so working nights and weekends to meet with residents and also during the normal working day is what I’m committed to doing as I wasn’t raised to do a job half-heartedly.

“Maintaining a business (workchild) and being a Councillor can be done effectively with proper time management and communication.

“Parents wouldn’t be expected to give up their child for a job that could possibly have them employed for only 4 years.”

Cassowary Coast Council employee and Division 6 candidate, Harry Tenni is a firm believer that councillors have a responsibility to work full time in their division as well as the wider region.

“I am 100% in favour that all Councillors should be required to work full-time for the division they live in, and the entire Cassowary Coast region.

“In my last campaign in 2020 as well as this one, I have stated I will work full time, and donate 10% of my taxable income to charities, clubs and animal welfare within Division 6.

“You don’t elect Councillors for their own financial benefit, you elect them as your go-to-person for support and this cannot be achieved if they have a second job or business to manage.”

Cassowary Coast community advocate and council critic Paul Toogood sees it clearly.

“A Councillor is paid a full time remuneration to represent the people of their division and the whole region.

“Previously some elected Councillors have successfully managed to represent their constituents and their own businesses and others not so much. We have all heard the stories about Councillors giving Council staff directions not to bother them at their business.

“Integrity and ethics should determine whether a Councillor does the right thing in relation to conflicts of duties and their overriding duties as a Councillor and to do the job they are paid to do.

“Having said that, I will remove all possible conflicts if elected, and I will work full time in my Council role and hand over the control and operation of my digital marketing business to other persons. I cannot promise however, to stop taking photos of our beautiful region!”

Councillors representing a Category 3 Council such as Cassowary Coast receive $70,759 payment each year for their services. The Mayor receives $133,196 remuneration for their services. For a business owner to divest themselves from a business connection can be an enormous financial impost upon their household budget. For some candidates the focus is firmly upon working extra long hours for the residents along with minimising the risk of a conflict of interest in the execution of their council duties.


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