How long is too long? Community questions Council on extended leave for elected Councillors

Port Stephens Councillor Dunkley has been absent from Port Stephens Council meetings since 23 August. Photo: Marian Sampson.

COMMUNITY members have raised concerns over councillors taking extended leaves of absence from their elected duties.

In particular, Port Stephens local Kelly Hammond has questioned the prolonged absence from Council activities of East Ward Councillor Glen Dunkley, who has not attended Council meetings since August.

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News Of The Area understands that Councillor Dunkley and his family are in Europe for an extended holiday.

️When members of the community try to send Councillor Dunkley an email, an automated response is received suggesting you connect with another councillor as lengthy response times are expected.

Councillor Dunkley is not able to represent his community via Zoom as the video-conferencing software isn’t an option for attending Council meetings.

“If you can’t show up to Council meetings because you are unwell or on leave you shouldn’t be expected or able to vote,” Ms Hammond said.

“Representing the needs of the community becomes difficult when you’re out-of-touch with what’s going on.”

Hammond and others are questioning the length of time a councillor can be on paid leave before he or she should be replaced, particularly given Council’s current financial situation.

“Is the community paying the councillor to be on extended leave?” Hammond said.

A Port Stephens Council spokesperson confirmed councillors on periods of leave do receive their councillor allowance.

“The Local Government Act requires a person to be a ratepayer, resident or elector in the local government area when they nominate for a position at a council election,” the spokesperson said.

“If a councillor moves outside the local government area while holding civic office, the councillor wouldn’t be disqualified from holding civic office.

“Councillors do continue to receive the councillor allowance during periods of leave, and they receive Council business papers, correspondence and other forms of interaction with and from the community during these times.

“Council has granted Cr Dunkley leave of absence up to and including 22 November 2022.”

Ms Hammond did however praise Councillor Dunkley on his previous work for the community.

“Councillor Dunkley is a very nice individual and I have approached him previously about a topic close to his heart.

“He gave me advice on defibrillators and since that conversation Anna Bay Tavern installed one in my hometown,” said Hammond.

Councillor Glen Dunkley and Mayor Ryan Palmer were invited to comment on the situation, however did not respond in time for publication.


One thought on “How long is too long? Community questions Council on extended leave for elected Councillors

  1. Video-conferencing was used effectively for Council
    meetings whilst COVID prevented actual meetings from occurring , and would have continued to be an option for Councillors who could only attend remotely due to other commitments, however our Local Labor members voted that option down. As a result balanced decisions cannot be made as the vote pool is often biased and limited by a particular political party or a Council Ward.
    Surely in this day and age, Councillor participation should not be limited to actual physical attendance at meetings when there are Councillors willing and able to attend remotely.

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