Administrator's 'facts' are wrong, says community group
Council Administrator Mr Rik Hart last week reprimanded residents for "spreading of misinformation" in relation to the Council's planned asset sales.
But one community group has accused Mr Hart of spreading misinformation himself.
Mr Hart provided what he called a "fact check" to refute misinformation on a number of topics in a lengthy media release on Monday, May 24t
Among the "facts" was a statement that "the Umina carpark at Bullion Ave would include strict conditions of sale so there is no loss of public parking, as well as ensuring that the businesses on West St maintain their rear lane access".
However, the Central Coast branch of the Australian Conservation Foundation says council minutes show the sale of the carpark is unconditional.
"Nowhere in the council minutes or agenda was there any reference to the sale of the carpark being conditional or what those conditions might be," said branch president Mr Mark Ellis.
"The fact is that there is nothing currently committing the council to condition the sale of the carpark in the way Mr Hart claims."
"If the council plans is to put conditions on the sale of any assets, the council should disclose these conditions in a council resolution ahead of any decision to sell.
"Any conditions need to be in place with the sale, and not left to a subsequent development approval process.
"The community should be given access to and be able to comment on the detail of any conditions ahead before a decision is made about the sale of any assets."
Mr Ellis said he was also concerned about a statement in Mr Hart's media release that "this urgent need for income may override historic strategic direction".
"Many submissions have cited current strategies and policies, not historic ones, which should not be ignored or over-ridden in an ad hoc fashion," Mr Ellis said.
If changes to strategic direction were proposed, they should go through established processes, he said.
"Failing to follow existing strategies and policies and ignoring them willy-nilly simply further undermines the community's trust and confidence in the council and its operation."
Mr Ellis said Mr Hart's statement called into question whether Mr Hart recognised how the role of Council Administrator representing the interests of the ratepayers differed from his previous role as interim general manager, representing the interests of council staff and the regulators.
"Mr Hart should be listening and seeking to understand ratepayers and reflecting their interests, not criticising them and telling them off.
"Given Mr Hart's deep involvement and stake in formulating this proposal as interim general manager, there is a clear conflict of interest between these two roles."
Mr Ellis said the comment period should be extended to allow residents to respond to the new information introduced by Mr Hart for the first time, just five days before the comment period closed.
Petitions opposing the sale have attracted "thousands" of signatures, according to Member for Gosford Ms Liesl Tesch.
Media release, 24 May 2021
Rik Hart, Central Coast Council
Media release, 30 May 2021
Mark Ellis, ACFCC