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January 25, 2021

Byron mayor hits back at fellow Green over governance

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Byron mayor Simon Richardson.
Byron mayor Simon Richardson.

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?’

Baseless accusations

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.

Personal jibes

[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.’

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  1. Governance does matter. Communities depend on it. Transparency of the principles that guide development matter. Byron Shire is dealing with mega-developments that have been approved by the State Government.

    Local Councillors have a right to ask relevant questions if these developments are remiss in articulating the need for Environment Impact Studies (EIS) and Social Impact Studies (SIS and lack of Public Participation by communities thus affected.

    Leaving developers to guard the public interest. That can only be disastrous. The answer is good governance, first define the public good, then let developers deploy their considerable ingenuity within those clean constrains’ (E. Farrelly, SMH. Jan 14 15 News Review p32)

    We democratically vote for good governance in the spirit of good will and public good….In principle easy, in practice hard.

    Furthermore, a local journal that is prepared to publish letters to the Editor is a sign of healthy democracy, and in the current social climate that is growing more dismissive of democratic rights… stands as a gift to any community.

  2. Tom T’s points, or questions, are so truncated in this report that there’s no way to assess their worth. Perhaps he spelled them out in his email? In any case, what we have here is Simon’s frustration but not the stuff that provoked it.

  3. Simon and Tom, you are both intelligent men. Stop acting like little spoilt brats! Put up the evidence or “shut up”, Tom. Your petulance is not becoming of you, Simon. Byron Shire ratepayers don’t need to be subjected to this S**T.


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