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Presidente Watts deposed? Or not… the plot thickens…

By 21 November 2012 70

The Canberra Times has the intriguing news that Liberal Assembly candidate Matt Watts has been deposed from the presidency of the hotly contested Belconnen Community Council:

Ms Gourgard told The Canberra Times today that the council had been advised by the Office of Regulatory Services (ORS) that the September election, and Mr Watts’ nomination, was not in accordance with the council’s rules.

Ms Gourgard said this morning that she and her supporters had been working for two months on overturning the September result and had been advised by ORS that Mr Watts’s nomination for council president, declared just minutes before the September vote, was invalid.


UPDATE 21/11/12 13:42: This defiant statement by president Watts was left in the comments:

“The media release issued on 21 November 2012 under the auspices of the Belconnen Community Council was not authorised by the Belconnen Community Council.

In September, an Annual General Meeting was held at which Mr Matt Watts was elected President. Several weeks later, the out-going President and several other members unhappy at the election result announced that the ex-President was still President.

The dispute concerns whether the President was properly elected. The outgoing president contends that the Model Rules should be followed to determine who is President. The other view is that the BCC Constitution is valid and was followed correctly to elect a new President.

At the AGM, the BCC Public Officer accepted a late nomination for the position of President. By accepting this nomination, in accordance with the BCC constitution, the outcome was legitimate.

This was discussed at a committee meeting in October and a decision was taken to seek advice from the Office of Regulatory Services on this matter. Any further actions or public comment would only be made following receipt of this advice, and further discussion by the BCC Committee.

The President of the BCC then wrote to the Office of Regulatory Services to seek clarification. The advice received from the ORS was:
• The Model Rules apply if there is no Constitution.
• The BCC Constitution has been in place for many years and is in effect.

Following receipt of this advice, the Vice President and Public Officer (the same person) refused to discuss the matter any further with the President. At some point last week, the President attempted to login to the BCC email account and discovered he no longer had access. On or about the 14th of November, the BCC email account was illegally accessed and permissions changed to deny the President access. A series of emails was then issued, without authorisation by the Vice President.

Based on this action, the President has asked the Vice President to resign from his position as Public Officer.

These actions by the Vice President and Public Officer were taken despite an agreement at the Committee meeting that discussion would occur following receipt of advice from the Office of Regulatory Services. As the advice has not conformed to their view, the ex-President and Vice President have acted as if the election results never occurred.

One of these unauthorised emails announced that there would be a Public Meeting of the Belconnen Community Council. This was not an official meeting, and was not authorised by the President or the Committee. The meeting notice was not provided as required by the BCC Constitution. As such, the meeting held on 20 November 2012 cannot be considered an official BCC meeting, and no resolutions discussed or passed at that meeting can be construed as official positions of the BCC.

A Committee meeting of the Belconnen Community Council has been arranged where this matter will be resolved. At this meeting the BCC committee members will discuss the advice from the Office of Regulatory Services and other matters concerning the governance of the Belconnen Community Council. This is the course of action agreed upon at the previous BCC Committee meeting by both the President and the members who disputed the result. This meeting will still occur, and will be attended by members of the Belconnen Community Council.

This is a sad and unfortunate situation brought about by the failure of some people to recognise the results of an election. While these people have been agitating to ensure that their social club continued, the new president has already taken steps to work on the agenda he put forward at the September AGM where he was elected. This includes distributing a survey to small businesses in Belconnen with the view to establishing the views of small business in respect to the future of Belconnen, establishing a joint committee with the Gungahlin Community Council, commencing discussion on a new constitution, obtaining last year’s financial audit and beginning preliminary work on the new Belconnen Master Plan.“

Regards,

Matt Watts JP
President
Belconnen Community Council


UPDATE 23/11/12 09:53: Justice and Community Safety have now made a statement contradicting some of the earlier reporting.

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70 Responses to
Presidente Watts deposed? Or not… the plot thickens…
Holden Caulfield 12:13 pm
21 Nov 12
#1

Is this because he’s a climate change denier? ;)

colourful sydney rac 12:23 pm
21 Nov 12
#2

probably for the best that he was not elected then…

maxblues 1:00 pm
21 Nov 12
#3

Is this Ms Gourgard related to a Ms Gourgard who works in the aforesaid ORS?

460cixy 1:05 pm
21 Nov 12
#4

Sounds to me like some one has a bit of a bee in there bonnet after losing.

damien haas 1:35 pm
21 Nov 12
#5

This is not accurate.

Mr Towell has written an article based on a press release from the deposed President and her supporters.

Matt Watts has just issued this in response:

“The media release issued on 21 November 2012 under the auspices of the Belconnen Community Council was not authorised by the Belconnen Community Council.

In September, an Annual General Meeting was held at which Mr Matt Watts was elected President. Several weeks later, the out-going President and several other members unhappy at the election result announced that the ex-President was still President.

The dispute concerns whether the President was properly elected. The outgoing president contends that the Model Rules should be followed to determine who is President. The other view is that the BCC Constitution is valid and was followed correctly to elect a new President.

At the AGM, the BCC Public Officer accepted a late nomination for the position of President. By accepting this nomination, in accordance with the BCC constitution, the outcome was legitimate.

This was discussed at a committee meeting in October and a decision was taken to seek advice from the Office of Regulatory Services on this matter. Any further actions or public comment would only be made following receipt of this advice, and further discussion by the BCC Committee.

The President of the BCC then wrote to the Office of Regulatory Services to seek clarification. The advice received from the ORS was:
• The Model Rules apply if there is no Constitution.
• The BCC Constitution has been in place for many years and is in effect.

Following receipt of this advice, the Vice President and Public Officer (the same person) refused to discuss the matter any further with the President. At some point last week, the President attempted to login to the BCC email account and discovered he no longer had access. On or about the 14th of November, the BCC email account was illegally accessed and permissions changed to deny the President access. A series of emails was then issued, without authorisation by the Vice President.

Based on this action, the President has asked the Vice President to resign from his position as Public Officer.

These actions by the Vice President and Public Officer were taken despite an agreement at the Committee meeting that discussion would occur following receipt of advice from the Office of Regulatory Services. As the advice has not conformed to their view, the ex-President and Vice President have acted as if the election results never occurred.

One of these unauthorised emails announced that there would be a Public Meeting of the Belconnen Community Council. This was not an official meeting, and was not authorised by the President or the Committee. The meeting notice was not provided as required by the BCC Constitution. As such, the meeting held on 20 November 2012 cannot be considered an official BCC meeting, and no resolutions discussed or passed at that meeting can be construed as official positions of the BCC.

A Committee meeting of the Belconnen Community Council has been arranged where this matter will be resolved. At this meeting the BCC committee members will discuss the advice from the Office of Regulatory Services and other matters concerning the governance of the Belconnen Community Council. This is the course of action agreed upon at the previous BCC Committee meeting by both the President and the members who disputed the result. This meeting will still occur, and will be attended by members of the Belconnen Community Council.

This is a sad and unfortunate situation brought about by the failure of some people to recognise the results of an election. While these people have been agitating to ensure that their social club continued, the new president has already taken steps to work on the agenda he put forward at the September AGM where he was elected. This includes distributing a survey to small businesses in Belconnen with the view to establishing the views of small business in respect to the future of Belconnen, establishing a joint committee with the Gungahlin Community Council, commencing discussion on a new constitution, obtaining last year’s financial audit and beginning preliminary work on the new Belconnen Master Plan.“

Regards,

Matt Watts JP
President
Belconnen Community Council

FioBla 1:35 pm
21 Nov 12
#6

Ejection now.

PantsMan 1:43 pm
21 Nov 12
#7

maxblues said :

Is this Ms Gourgard related to a Ms Gourgard who works in the aforesaid ORS?

Ms Christine Gourgaud
JUSTICE AND COMMUNITY SAFETY DIRECTORATE- JACS
OFFICE OF REGULATORY SERVICES
REGISTRATIONS & FAIR TRADING
BUSINESS & INDUSTRY LICENSING
BUSINESS REGULATION, RENTAL BONDS AND AGENTS

http://www.directory.act.gov.au/ccExternal_5.1/webdir/cgi-bin/webdua.cgi?s1_150_30

GET THE TANKS ON THE STREETS!

NoImRight 2:35 pm
21 Nov 12
#8

Ill just google map directions to the Winter Palace.

Diggety 2:36 pm
21 Nov 12
#9

Wow, a coup a la Papua New Guinea style at our own BCC?

Popcorn!

johnboy 3:00 pm
21 Nov 12
#10

One has to wonder just how much money is at stake in the development of that master plan?

Chop71 3:34 pm
21 Nov 12
#11

dpm 3:36 pm
21 Nov 12
#12

Do the ‘Model Rules’ they talk about mean there needs to be a head-to-head Lego challenge to determine the Presedente?!? hahaha!

poetix 3:59 pm
21 Nov 12
#13

Perhaps someone can do a really hilarious Downfall parody based on this? I think we all know where we’d go for helpful tips.

johnboy 4:00 pm
21 Nov 12
#14

Frist we need to know how it comes out. And who was really playing.

maxblues 4:06 pm
21 Nov 12
#15

johnboy said :

One has to wonder just how much money is at stake in the development of that master plan?

Are you suggesting something Obeid style?

johnboy 4:07 pm
21 Nov 12
#16

maxblues said :

johnboy said :

One has to wonder just how much money is at stake in the development of that master plan?

Are you suggesting something Obeid style?

Heaven forfend.

There just seems to be an unusual amount of skin in the game.

rodent 4:43 pm
21 Nov 12
#17

Seems more than a little odd that Matt Watts, who is a regular contributor to this site (under Matt_Watts, I believe), couldn’t issue his own statement for himself.

risible 4:51 pm
21 Nov 12
#18

There are several misleading statements quoted from the Canberra Times article, unintentionally arising from Ms Gourgaud’s statements being paraphrased. Firstly, as Mr Watts knows, the ORS was not asked specifically about Mr Watt’s election but about interpretation of the relevant law. The ORS expects associations to sort out disagreements among themselves. Secondly, Ms Gourgaud was not involved in the efforts by other committee members to understand the correct legal situation. She had to be persuaded to continue as president and it took some weeks to do this.

The history of the matter is that, on 11 September, Mr Watts responded to a BCC email notifying the AGM and election of committee. This notice specified that nominations were to be lodged by 15 September. Mr Watts had previously been a committee member two years ago, so was aware of the protocol about nominations and closing date. He would also have been aware of the BCC website and Facebook page, both of which carried the same notice, the website from 1 September and Facebook from 10 September.

Nevertheless, Mr Watts did not lodge a nomination for the position of Council president until the AGM was beginning. Initially, he was told that nominations had closed, whereupon, he asked where the constitution specified that late nominations could not be accepted. Examination of the constitution showed that the only reference to election of the committee simply referred to “preferential voting” being used. Consequently, his nomination was reluctantly allowed, despite considerable concern that a Liberal candidate for the forthcoming ACT elections would consider it appropriate to stand for office in a community council. Council has always maintained the importance of being apolitical so as to serve the interests of everyone in the Belconnen community.

Subsequently, it was realised that the constitution had to be read in conjunction with the Model Rules authorised by the Associations Act. This Act allows an association to use the Model Rules or to write its own rules. In the latter case, the rules must cover all the matters contained in the Model Rules and where it does not, then the relevant Model Rule applies. In the BCC constitution, there was no reference to how nominations were to be made nor what should happen when there is no competition for a position so that voting is not required. For this, Council currently has to rely on the relevant Model Rule.

Mr Watts was alerted to a possible problem on 25 September and advised by email on 9 October of the effect of the Model Rule. At a committee meeting on 16 October, Mr Watts maintained that he was president because the public officer had declared him to be so. On 24 October, Mr Watts was forwarded an email from an ORS officer confirming the committee’s reading of the law but not referring to any particular situation.

On 26 October, Council’s public officer advised Mr Watts by email that errors had been made in accepting his late nomination, in holding a vote and in declaring him president. The public officer declared Ms Gourgaud to be president. Mr Watts refuted this.

On Tuesday 13 November, the committee discovered from the Chronicle that Mr Watts had cancelled the public meeting for the following week. This meeting had been organised before the AGM and was consistent with Council’s obligation to facilitate community consultation, in this case, about land sales and the NBN in Belconnen. The committee had not been consulted in reaching this decision nor had it been advised of the decision.

Accordingly, the committee decided that, in the interests of Council, it had to take steps to end the impasse. The previously-organised speakers were contacted and the public meeting reinstated for 21 November. The meeting passed a motion supporting the public officer’s declaration that Ms Gourgaud continued as president.

Mr Watts has been advised that he is welcome to continue his activities in relation to small business within Council.

Amendments to the constitution are already in progress so that it will be more comprehensive and with a view to presenting the revised constitution for approval at a public meeting in February.

Further

damien haas 4:51 pm
21 Nov 12
#19

rodent said :

Seems more than a little odd that Matt Watts, who is a regular contributor to this site (under Matt_Watts, I believe), couldn’t issue his own statement for himself.

Matt was at work. I dont believe he has access to RA from his workplace. He only found out about the press release from the ex-President at lunch time, and contacted the CT to correct the story. I decided to post it here.

damien haas 4:53 pm
21 Nov 12
#20

johnboy said :

maxblues said :

johnboy said :

One has to wonder just how much money is at stake in the development of that master plan?

Are you suggesting something Obeid style?

Heaven forfend.

There just seems to be an unusual amount of skin in the game.

I dont believe there is anything nefarious at play here from anyone. The master plan is expiring and a new one needs to be developed. Thats pretty much it. I do know that the parking that is disappearing from all over belco town centre is of concern to many people.

rodent 5:02 pm
21 Nov 12
#21

So, Matt sent his response to you, Damien?

Matt appears to have posted during work hours and days before (for example, http://the-riotact.com/watt%E2%80%99s-the-answer/83638/comment-page-8#comments), well after the election/campaign period when I presume he was back at work (of course I could be wrong).

I would just think for a fairly big issue, he would have posted this himself, particularly if he apparently had the time to write it himself.

Makes me wonder who is really pushing this.

cmdwedge 5:20 pm
21 Nov 12
#22

damien haas said :

johnboy said :

maxblues said :

johnboy said :

One has to wonder just how much money is at stake in the development of that master plan?

Are you suggesting something Obeid style?

Heaven forfend.

There just seems to be an unusual amount of skin in the game.

I dont believe there is anything nefarious at play here from anyone. The master plan is expiring and a new one needs to be developed. Thats pretty much it. I do know that the parking that is disappearing from all over belco town centre is of concern to many people.

Hell yes. Parking has become a bloodsport here in Belco!

damien haas 5:30 pm
21 Nov 12
#23

One thing Risible is neglecting to mention is that at the october committee meeting Matt offered to resign and for a fresh election for the position to be held. This offer was not accepted.

The ORS advised that either the constution applied OR the model rules.

It is not ‘pick a rule’.

That the Public Officer changed his mind some time following the election has led to this sad situation.

Diggety 6:09 pm
21 Nov 12
#24

I can see this playing out on either Today Tonight, or Media Watch.

damien haas 7:35 pm
21 Nov 12
#25

rodent said :

So, Matt sent his response to you, Damien?

Matt appears to have posted during work hours and days before (for example, http://the-riotact.com/watt%E2%80%99s-the-answer/83638/comment-page-8#comments), well after the election/campaign period when I presume he was back at work (of course I could be wrong).

I would just think for a fairly big issue, he would have posted this himself, particularly if he apparently had the time to write it himself.

Makes me wonder who is really pushing this.

I hate to burst your bubble of conspiratorial musings, but i think if you check back through RA you will find that i often post BCC notices on behalf of other people.

Ravensclaw 8:18 pm
21 Nov 12
#26

It seems to me that the “error” was made in accepting a nomination, and NOT a problem with the actual vote. This would be a minor issue and should not affect the outcome. I’m sure if the previous President had of survived the vote this wouldn’t be an issue. This attempt at using legal technicalities to overturn what no one disputes as anything other than a fair election is shameful and clearly based on spite from the shameless losers of the election.

Democracy prevailed and there is a new President of the Belconnen Community Council. Deal with it.

May I suggest to the council members to learn your own constitution. This is Australia, not North Korea or Venezuela.

Cheers

The Traineediplomat 8:24 pm
21 Nov 12
#27

I voted for Kodos

The Traineediplomat 8:27 pm
21 Nov 12
#28

It’s like having our own little piece of Africa here in the ACT!!!

oh and I voted for Kodos

knuckles 8:35 pm
21 Nov 12
#29

Like sands through the hourglass…………

LSWCHP 10:05 pm
21 Nov 12
#30

Pretty soon the RPD’s will be hammering around Belco mall, resulting in plenty of free parking spaces for anybody who wants one. Katyushas will be howling and moaning into Emu bank, their glowing shrapmetal disturbing the slurred conversations of the afternoon drinkers at the Lighthouse.

There will be simultaneous announcements from both sides, each proclaiming their victory, while the streetfighters do it hand to hand outside the doors of the radio and TV stations. The bodies will be piled high, and Lake Ginninderra will be slowly stained a sinister crimson.

The Porky Lips is upon us. I’m going down to my workshop to make ammunition and tally up my cans of beans.

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