21 February 2024

Kiama Council summoned to Supreme Court by councillor

| Zoe Cartwright
The Old Kiama Council Chambers.

The Old Kiama Council Chambers. Photo: Kiama Council.

Beleaguered Kiama Municipal Council will appear in the Supreme Court later this month following legal action by Councillor Karen Renkema-Lang.

A council spokesperson said the summons related to a decision made by the council in November 2023 to censure the Independent S.A.F.E. Kiama councillor.

The spokesperson said the council could not comment on the matters while they were ongoing and that the use of “public ratepayers’ funds in defending this course of legal action is regrettable, especially when considered in terms of the current financial circumstances of the council”.

“The summons states the councillor is seeking costs from Council,” the spokesperson said. “To date, Council has spent over $20,000 on this complaint.”

READ ALSO Call to suspend Blue Haven sale process not lawful Kiama Council CEO says

The council spokesperson said there were alternative methods to appeal the decision that would not use further ratepayer funds.

It’s another blow for the struggling council, and CEO Jane Stroud said she was worried about the council’s financial position.

“The organisation is currently experiencing an extreme amount of pressure and stress associated with well documented financial and governance matters,” Ms Stroud said.

“Legal fees for the organisation are already excessive and this new matter does create an additional financial burden on the business.

“The Performance Improvement Order and the recent Raynor report clearly explain what ought to be the focus of both the councillors and the administration right now.

“I hold specific concerns and worry about the worsening functionality of the council, when in such uncertain times and unchartered territory, what is really required is cohesive and collective effort to correct the course of the organisation.”

READ ALSO Kiama mayor says council has a bright future

Two months into 2024 and this is not the first struggle the council has had with its own councillors this year.

Councillor Kathy Rice’s notice of motion to “pause” the tender process for the sale of Blue Haven Bonaira was rejected at an extraordinary meeting on 1 February and the council resolved to go ahead with the sale.

Police were called to the extraordinary meeting after members of the public refused to leave when the council sought to move into a closed session.

Cr Rice submitted the notice of motion to “suspend all action” on the sale of Blue Haven Bonaira before last December’s meeting. Ms Stroud was highly critical of the motion, and called it “unlawful”.

The decision to sell the council-owned retirement and supported living facility was made in 2022, after the cost blowout from the build of Blue Haven Bonaira, and ongoing operational losses had severe negative effects on the council’s budget.

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