Inner West Independent

Inner West councillors clash over monitoring allegations

Councillor John Stamolis who put forward the motion about monitoring. Photo: Supplied

By SCOTT CARROLL

In a meeting on Tuesday October 27, councillors denied a motion that Inner West Council should report its monitoring practices.

The motion follows multiple accusations that Inner West Council staff are monitoring councillor correspondences including intercepting mail, emails and phone calls.

Councillor John Stamolis, who put forward the motion, said: “There were three [councillors] who voted against the motion who were, in fact, the ones who expressed very serious concerns about it.”

“Because we are a Labor run council, of course, they don’t want these sort of things coming out so automatically they would vote against it. It’s just pure politics.”

The suspicion of monitoring led Labor mayor Darcy Byrne to contact councillors through his private email address after advice that the Inner West Council email service is “potentially being monitored by Council officers.”

Despite the correspondence on his private email address, Mr. Byrne voted against the motion.

Mr. Stamolis’ proposed motion lost with six votes for to seven votes against.

Of the allegations, councillors also accuse the Inner West Council of withholding mail addressed to them from residents.

Councillor Julie Passas also alleges that the Inner West Council withheld mail addressed to her, with residents approaching her in the street questioning why she hasn’t replied to their correspondence.

“We’re supposed to be working together, staff and council, for the good of the municipality. How can we fulfil our role if we don’t know what exactly is going on? We need to be briefed, we need to know,” said Ms. Passas.

In a council meeting acting General Manager Elizabeth Richardson assured councillors that although the Inner West Council retains emails, no staff member is yet to access the archives since 2016.

Stamolis remains sceptical of the acting General Manager’s comments due to her recent appointment.

“She [Ms. Richardson] was only in the acting role for about four days, so how can she make that comment,” said Mr. Stamolis.

“Just a misunderstanding”

However, other councillors do not feel concerned about the allegations of monitoring, as councillor Colin Hesse thinks that it is just a misunderstanding.

“I think it is not true except in case of the mayor, where his staff monitor the emails sent from members of the community by agreement. So I think it was a misunderstanding by one or two councillors about that,” said Mr. Hesse

“I don’t have any concerns, including any concerns about councillors’ emails being monitored by staff.”

Councillor Marghanita Da Cruz also proposed an amendment in the motion, recommending that a report should be produced on Inner West Council’s information governance procedures.

Councillor Marghanita Da Cruz also proposed an amendment in the motion, recommending a report on Inner West Council’s information governance procedures.

However, even with the proposed amendment, the motion failed to attract the attention of other councillors.

“The practice is not in keeping with inner west values, the inner west people and I doubt if any other council did it. You always need monitoring, but you hand it to the appropriate authorities,” said Mr. Stamolis.

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