A BAYSWATER councillor was forbidden from calling the council “divided” amid a frosty meeting this week, with mayor Filomena Piffaretti ordering Cr Elli Petersen-Pik to withdraw his remark.
Cr Petersen-Pik had raised a notice of motion calling on the council to change how it shared promotional activities between elected members, such as appearing in press releases or online posts documenting attendance at community events.
He said a fair-share system would remove the possibility of favouritism towards a ruling clique.
“This power can be, and has been, used to promote specific councillors or exclude others,” Cr Petersen-Pik said.
“This will stop it for good, and from my perspective it will be an important step forward for having a united and harmonious council where all councillors feel that they are part of it, and not excluded, no matter who’s the mayor in the future.”
Cr Dan Bull, a former mayor himself until Cr Piffaretti took the chair in 2021, agreed they should bring in a fair share process. He’d had a scan of
the council’s official Facebook page and scrolled through 46 promotional items to tally up appearances.
According to Cr Bull’s count he and west ward colleagues Giorgia Johnson and Lorna Clarke had only been featured once as part of a group photo
– about a fifth as often as councillors more closely aligned with the mayor.
Cr Petersen-Pik did not featured in any of the post.
Deputy mayor Catherine Ehrhardt said she had felt excluded in the past, but not while Cr Piffaretti was mayor.
But she said it wasn’t an urgent matter and would needlessly eat up officer’s time given the council’s Social Media Policy was due for a review in November.
“I have been previously hurt by a lack of media opportunity, but the thing that I complained about the most was actually being cut out of photos … which had happened numerous times but hasn’t happened recently for the last 18 months,” Cr Ehrhardt said.
“[I] was actually cut out of photos to the point where a shoulder was left in, and people would contact me and say ‘were you in that photo? I can see your shoulder’.”
Cr Petersen-Pik wants a policy written and adopted before the 2023 election so that the new rules could be implemented straight after.
“We have councillors who feel excluded. And there are so many tensions around this council, it should be said, this council is divided. And I hear so many concerns from so many councillors, and it is so unfortunate…”
But Cr Josh Eveson called a point of order, saying Cr Petersen-Pik had made an “adverse reflection”.
The council’s standing orders state members can’t “reflect adversely on the character or actions of another member”.
Cr Piffaretti upheld the point of order, and directed Cr Petersen-Pik to withdraw the comment.
Cr Petersen-Pik: “I’m not allowed to say that there is a divisive council?”
Cr Piffaretti: “No.”
Cr Petersen-Pik: “Even if we do have a divisive council?”
Cr Piffaretti: “That’s your opinion, councillor.”
Cr Petersen-Pik: “But I’m speaking my opinion here.”
Cr Petersen-Pik withdrew the comment at the mayor’s direction, and said “I feel like what’s happening here now is exactly what I’m talking about, but I’m not allowed to say what’s happening.”
The vote against the promo sharing plan was split along the same lines as the vote for mayor in 2021: Crs Sally Palmer, Giorgia Johnson, Bull and Petersen-Pik voting in favour of it, and Crs Assunta Meleca, Michelle Sutherland, Ehrhardt, Eveson, and Piffaretti against.
by DAVID BELL
How absolutely wrong and undemocratic that the Mayor would override that. It was neither abusive nor irrelevant and surely councillors are allowed to have alternative viewpoints and use of the English language.. I call this outrageous.