Further to last week’s story regarding the suspension of a stallholder by Byron Community Market managers, the Byron Bay Community Centre (BBCC) has provided written evidence of the five complainants to The Echo.
BBCC general manager Paul Spooner, who is also a councillor, was prompted to reply after suspended stallholder Ian Brown erected a large sign on Ewingsdale Road last Monday that read, ‘Who is the bully Spooner? Expose your fabricated allegations!’
The Echo verified statements with three of those complainants by phone.
Cr Spooner suspended Brown after complaints against Brown’s recent behaviour at the markets, yet Brown denied any wrongdoing and said he had been targeted because he is a vocal opponent of moving the markets from Butler Street.
‘This is a total fabrication,’ he told The Echo.
Although Brown’s character has been supported by a number of fellow stallholders, Cr Spooner told The Echo, ‘By not acting upon these complaints, the BBCC believed we would be liable for failing to uphold workplace health and safety. It would open us to legal action.’
As the complaints were varying in nature, Cr Spooner said he had no choice but to suspend Brown.
Additionally Cr Spooner denied that he was pushing for any move of the market, and said that he has always abstained from voting on market-related issues in Council as it is a pecuniary interest.
But he did agree when asked that uncertainty around Council staff’s push for the now abandoned transport hub had caused confusion and angst as there was a lack of detailed plans.
‘As I previously said, the first councillors knew about the transport hub was when it became public.’
And it’s not just the transport hub that is causing angst for stallholders and Butler Street residents; Cr Spooner says there is still no assurance as to how the planned Butler Street bypass will be managed or when it will happen.
In this upcoming Council meeting agenda, staff say they were unsuccessful in applying for a $8m grant for ‘Byron Bay Town Centre Bypass, Commonwealth, Regional Jobs and Investment Packages.’
Meanwhile, Lennox Head-based Liberal MP Catherine Cusack has told NSW parliament that her previous comments about Byron Community Centre president Jason Arthurton and general manager Paul Spooner were a ‘metaphor.’
She told the chamber last week, ‘Mr Spooner has not contacted me directly, but has made representations through other members of parliament requesting clarification of my statement to the effect that the reserve revenues are going into his pocket. I wish to clarify that this was a metaphor and there was no intention to imply corruption or theft. I was alluding to the use of reserve revenues to pay or part pay Byron Community Centre salaries. I make this clarification for the avoidance of doubt.’