Editor’s response raises more questions
I write to you concerning your ‘‘editors note’’ on a letter sent to your media outlet by Wollondilly councillor Ray Law (‘‘Demands for an apology and retraction’’, Wollondilly Advertiser, April 2).
I should firstly point out that I am not a member of Wollondilly Residents and Ratepayers (WRRA), nor have I ever been to any of their meetings or functions.
Whilst your reporter has no recollection of Ray Law asking specifically about the $100,000 expenditure, I was present in gallery at the meeting and can confirm Ray Law spoke clearly about this ‘‘magical’’ $100,000 figure.
Whilst I could not give his words to you verbatim, I can certainly vouch for the fact that Ray Law’s letter is a factual account of his intent.
I have a list of questions that WRRA have asked over the previous couple of years. This list is readily available on a number of social media sites.
I believe your media outlet should probably take a look at the questions and ask yourself, are these acceptable questions to ensure accountable government?
Whilst some of these questions may seem trivial or not worth responding to, someone within the community feels they are important.
My understanding is WRRA has not received any responses to these questions other than letters from legal firms refusing information on behalf of Wollondilly’s general manager Les McMahon.
I’m not sure why this lack of response costs so much.
In the attached list I would ask you to look at these three questions as a starting point.
1 Question 5, 9 December 2013 Street sweeping contract (Cr Ray Law has this contract). Much more public information can be obtained on this one easily through the Administrative Disputes Tribunal. Again links are easily found on social media sites, possibly Ray Law himself could fill you in. (The cost here would have to be $100 000 of ratepayers money).
2 Question 4, 10 February 2014 Legal advice on alleged defamation, this relates to a large Facebook group ‘‘Wollondilly Wingers’’. I note this group still exists with some 400 members, again how much money was wasted by council to attempt to stop accountability, without any result?
3 Question 5, 10 February 2014 Credit Card expenses. Why would Les McMahon engage a legal firm to respond to a request for use of public money?
Paul Rogers, Bargo
Costs don’t add up
I was very surprised by the article by Ben Chenoweth on page 1 of the Wollondilly Advertiser of March 26, 2014.
I had to ask myself if this was the same meeting I attended, as his writing (I won’t call it reporting) was so divergent to my recollection of the event.
The $100,000 alluded to was what the council has paid in the past, apparently, on other matters, not on the questions asked by the Wollondilly Ratepayers and Residents Association’s questions.
Most of the questions asked by the WRRA have not been answered and council has spent more on legal costs to threaten other ratepayers who have said nothing against council.
If this fictional account is allowed to stand, perhaps the writer would be more comfortable with a different role. I hear Mills and Boon are always interested.
Tracy Hoggarth-Green, Bargo
We refer to ‘‘Demands for an apology and retraction’’ and the editor’s footnote, Wollondilly Advertiser, April 2.
Cr Ray Law’s letter was in response to an article “Staff costs spurs gag” (Advertiser, March 26) by journalist Ben Chenoweth.
Mr Chenoweth clearly states in the article that Wollondilly Residents and Ratepayers Association “had cost council $100,000 in litigation and more than $12,000 …” in staff time.
Nowhere in council’s report prepared by governance officer Toni Spence does it say WRRA has “cost council $100,000 in litigation’’.
It’s just bad journalism.
Further, in the article “Council staff were ‘bullied’” (Advertiser, February 26) Benn Banasik is quoted as saying that staff were “bullied” by a “minority” group, who turned out to be Wollondilly Residents and Ratepayers Association.
We can assure the community that we haven’t “bullied” council staff as alleged, but the Advertiser journalist saw fit to accept allegations from Benn Banasik’s mouth without substantiating his claims.
The editor is correct in noting that “restrictions” have been placed on WRRA.
We’ve been blocked from email communications with council since April 1 and limited to asking one question per month. That’s 11 questions per year.
We were also blocked by council from email access to councillors, until Crs Ray Law and Judy Hannan valiantly righted the wrong.
Despite council’s bullying tactics, it will never stop us from monitoring expenditure, questioning their activities and making them accountable to ratepayers.
Wollondilly Residents and Ratepayers Association secretary
Editor’s note: The Advertiser stands by its original story and again refers readers to the report to the March 17 meeting of Wollondilly Council, page 202. I would also like to note, at no point did the Wollondilly Advertiser make claims about how much Wollondilly Residents and Ratepayers Association had cost the council in terms of staff time or litigation. The figures quoted in the front page news story which appeared in our March 26 edition are clearly attributed to the council report. Read our story: http://www.wollondillyadvertiser.com.au/story/2173519/staff-costs-spurs-gag/