I was at the public meeting at the YMCA last week chaired by Cllr Janet Jefferson and attended by some council members and several hundred residents.
Many of those present made reference to statements previously made in public by one or more councillors to the effect that the decision to demolish the Futurist and redevelop ‘was a done deal’.
If this is true, surely it implies that whatever evidence was put before the council in this week’s vote, the decision had already made to vote for demolition.
There is a longstanding principle in local government called the doctrine of natural justice.
It says that where a council has a decision to make based on studies, reports or other evidence, any councillor who has publicly indicated which way he or she will vote before seeing the evidence should be barred from taking part in the debate or the vote.
This routinely happens in council chambers up and down the country.
The council’s monitoring officer, if he or she is aware of such comments having been made, should intervene to ensure the integrity of the decision made by the council. I understand that the Futurist report to the council did provide members with substantial evidence of this kind in order that they were properly informed.
If the information brought forward at the public meeting was correct, then at least one councillor named as having made prejudicial statements did vote and that vote was crucial to the result.
Some formal guidance on this matter can be found via the following link www.goodgovernance.org.au/decision-making/guiding-principles/natural-justice/
Readers might particularly note the following extract from this guidance:
“When councillors give the impression that they will never change their views on an issue regardless of the evidence or advice, they are at severe risk of breaching the natural justice doctrine. In such cases, the council decision is then at risk of being set aside by a court or tribunal.”