Hobsons Bay’s chief executive has been given more powers in the COVID-19 state of emergency, enabling him to make decisions if a councillor majority can’t be maintained.
At a special council meeting convened this week, CEO Aaron van Egmond was put in the position of answering a question about what would happen in the event of his own “passing”.
Councillors passed a motion to extend Mr van Egmond’s powers “enabling more responsive decision-making during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the event that council is unable to maintain a quorum throughout the period of the state of emergency and associated impacts of the pandemic”.
Cr Peter Hemphill, wearing a medical mask, asked what would happen “in the event of the CEO’s passing”.
“I don’t want to put it crudely but we have to face all sorts of circumstances,” Cr Hemphill said.
Mr van Egmond responded that he would check the council’s business continuity plans for “if that instance did arise”.
Adopting the budget is not included in the powers.
Mr van Egmond said where planning matters were concerned, an appropriately qualified senior statutory planner would be allocated to providing advice and making decisions.
Cr Jonathon Marsden told the meeting the move was an important safety net in case four of the seven councillors could not attend council meetings.
“It’s a sensible precaution to take if there are four people who are either ill or at risk of falling ill if the virus continues to ravage the community,” he said.
“I believe that democracy ought to continue to function throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, no matter the circumstances, and to that end I think the Local
Government Act should be amended to allow virtual meetings during declared emergencies so that we can continue to operate as a council, democratically and transparently.”