COLAC Otway Shire councillor Chris Smith has defended his decision to miss two thirds of the council’s briefings and workshops.
The council hosts private briefings and workshops for its councillors on top of public council meetings, allowing councillors to discuss issues with council officers and outside experts.
The 2012-13 annual report revealed Cr Chris Smith attended seven of the council’s 24 private briefings and workshops between October 2012 and June 2013, although he attended every public council meeting during that time.
Cr Smith said the briefings were not constructive and lacked good opportunities for debate.
But mayor Lyn Russell said the briefings and workshops, while not compulsory, provided background information.
“It’s very disappointing, you can’t force a person to come to a briefing or a workshop and that’s up to Chris, it’s got to be his decision,” Cr Russell said.
“I’d love him to turn up at the workshops, quite often the questions he asks in council are questions that have come up in the workshops,” she said.
“They don’t make decisions at workshops or at briefings, but they do get questions and they have that opportunity to ask it.
“It helps make an informed choice and when you’re making a decision you need all the information you can.”
Cr Smith said the briefings and workshops failed to allow constructive discussions.
“I don’t walk way from the issue, I think it’s something the community needs to know,” he said of his attendance record.
“Unfortunately the workshop and the briefings in my opinion have not become a viable use of time and I’m better off using my time serving the community in other ways.
“It should be a good opportunity for debate, but unfortunately it hasn’t been.
“Unfortunately I don’t envisage any change in the foreseeable future as far as my attendance goes.”
Cr Smith said he attended more briefings and workshops in past years, but said the briefings and workshops had changed.
“They do have a place when run appropriately,” he said.
“There are some things that should simply be discussed in public rather than behind closed doors.”
Council chief Rob Small said Cr Smith’s lack of attendance at the briefings and workshops created “more work and less understanding”.
“We regret that and we keep on trying to leave that door open,” Mr Small said.
“I think councillors being respectful of outsiders coming along is also quite important,” he said.
Cr Terry Woodcroft was the councillor who missed the next most briefings and workshops, absent from four out of 24.