Division has emerged within the Byron Greens party, with mayor Simon Richardson and former Greens councillor Tom Tabart trading barbs over the mayor’s performance and ability to hold the council staff to account.
Last Wednesday, Tabart addressed the Greens mayor in an email which also included all eight councillors and general manager (GM) Ken Gainger.
Tabart claimed that DAs were taking 60 days to process and that contract planners were being employed at great expense. ‘You may like to ask or you may think this okay, I don’t,’ he wrote.
Additionally Tabart claimed ‘no applicants have been sought by the GM for new community members on advisory committees.’
‘You may also like to instigate some sort of audit of the depot organisation and operation – my information is that it is a shambles that is costing heaps in terms of lost hours and employee morale.’
Tabart ended with, ‘I know that governance has never been your top priority, but it is your responsibility and you now have the numbers.’
Both the GM and director of Sustainable Environment and Economy Shannon Burt have replied to all of Tabart’s claims.
But the rift between the mayor and Tabart later escalated after Tabart told The Echo the mayor ‘threatened to not communicate with me any more unless I mended my ways.’
The Echo asked the mayor, ‘Is it true you said that to Tabart, and if so, isn’t that a little precious? Why not embrace the criticism?’
Cr Richardson told The Echo, ‘I love Tom but he gives me the shits.’
‘I sat next to him for four years in Council and I supported every single resolution he put forward to uncover the “baddies” within staff. That was virtually his only project.
‘The problem was that whenever he put something forward he could never back it up. The GM would say, “okay, show me some evidence,” but there was none. You can only do that for so many years. After four years, Tom really didn’t achieve much. I fully supported his initiative [while] he kept looking for rats under the bed… maybe there aren’t that many rats?
‘[The assumption that] “Don’t trust the GM, don’t trust staff, they’re all bastards”… sorry, I work intimately with these people every day, and they’re not [untrustworthy]. It’s that simple.
‘Ever since I helped to employ the current GM, I have had faith in him. He also employed [Sustainable Environment and Economy director] Shannon Burt and I was on that panel… I see what they do every day. The vast bulk of what they do is professional and efficient and I don’t want to second guess everything they do, because I have other shit I want to do. Whereas Tom had no other shit he wanted to do other than jump at shadows.
‘So he’s right, governance is not my top priority, because I’m satisfied that the governance in this council is as good as it’s ever been.
‘If I publicly attacked staff all the time and asked why, why, why, I would have doors closed on me.
‘Instead, I’ve had staff go above and beyond some of the projects they’ve worked with me on. I trust people until there’s a reason not to. I’m very loyal, and if I’m screwed over, I find it very hard to forgive.
‘But I look around with this staff and most of them are trying their hardest.
‘I’m not too sure what Tom wants me to act on.
‘We answered all his grievances [in the email] and he was virtually wrong on every one of them. I know he won’t accept that and there will be another list…
‘Enough of the snide backhanders. There’s only so much abuse you can put up with.
[In relation to harassment] ‘To some degree it’s a sport for some people in the Shire, and those people need to raise their game. I’m not going to sit and cop personal jibes from someone and then be asked to be their workhorse.
‘I deal with people who influence, every day. They either influence poorly or properly, so I see what works.
‘Someone who can write a considerate, mature, clear, precise email, then straight away I’m halfway to helping them.
‘The other way doesn’t work. And all they are left with – with respect – is a letter to the editor as a way to influence. No one else bothers to listen to them or take their views seriously. Tom used to laugh at people like himself.
‘Yeah, I was precious with Tom, but now I’m over it.
‘So Tom – ask me a question, show me some respect – and I’ll answer it.’