Second Mount Alexander Shire councillor resigns following mayor Sharon Telford's departure

Tony Bell is the latest councillor to resign from Mount Alexander Shire following former mayor Sharon Telford's departure last week. Picture of Mr Bell courtesy of Mount Alexander Shire.
Tony Bell is the latest councillor to resign from Mount Alexander Shire following former mayor Sharon Telford's departure last week. Picture of Mr Bell courtesy of Mount Alexander Shire.

UPDATE: 3.50PM A former Mount Alexander Shire councillor says he resigned after being undermined by shire staff following the council’s decision not to fly a rainbow flag in support of the LGBTIQ community.

Tony Bell, who was a representative in the Castlemaine Ward, alleged some of the behaviour by council staff directed at former mayor Sharon Telford, who resigned last week, “had been disgraceful and bordering on harassment”.

Council staff put rainbow flags in the windows of council buildings, namely the Castlemaine town hall and civic centre, following last month’s council meeting – a move in defiance of council’s decision, Mr Bell said. 

Another councillor’s request to have them removed was ignored by the shire’s acting chief executive officer, he added.  

“Council staff were making a mockery of a decision made by council on behalf of the ratepayers,” he said on Tuesday. 

“They were thumbing their noses at our decision, so I thought ‘well, why are we councillors?’”

Council voted 4:3 against the motion to fly a rainbow flag atop a council building in September, instead passing an alternative motion to convene a round table with health partners and local representatives or organisations from the LGBTIQ community by December.

“This has all just erupted over one decision and it (same-sex marriage debate) has just consumed everything,” Mr Bell said. 

“I have more important things to do in my life than get bogged down with things we don't have control of.”

Mr Bell said the conversations regarding same-sex marriage he had with the public had been calm and respectful.

Mount Alexander Shire Council said it will not comment on Mr Bell’s allegations.

His allegations follow the resignation of mayor Sharon Telford on Friday and recent comments from Coliban Ward councillor Christine Henderson, who spoke of the pressure placed on local government during the same-sex marriage postal survey.

“Personally I feel very angry at the federal government for failing to take a stand and do what they're meant to do and debate a matter of national interest which has to be decided at a federal level,” she said on Monday.

“Instead they've thrown this woolly, inconclusive survey exercise into the community that has generated a huge amount of emotion.”

EARLIER A second councillor has resigned from the Mount Alexander Shire following the departure of mayor Sharon Telford last week. 

Tony Bell, representative in the Castlemaine Ward, advised council of his decision on Monday and as with Ms Telford’s resignation, the shire could not provide an explanation as to why. 

“Tony always looked for ways to make the rates that we collect go further. He was at the forefront of recent successful initiatives to get willing community groups more involved in delivering projects traditionally done by the shire,” Mount Alexander Shire Council chief executive Darren Fuzzard said.

Mr Fuzzard, who described Mr Bell’s resignation as a “significant loss” for the shire, has written to the Victorian Electoral Commission to advise of his departure and to seek advice on how the vacant seat will be filled.

“One of his legacies will be the confidence and desire we have as an organisation to keep pursuing even closer working relationships with our very capable and generous community,” Mr Fuzzard said.

“Tony brought more than 30 years of business experience in earth moving and a life time of local knowledge to council discussions.” 

His resignation follows recent comments from Coliban Ward councillor Christine Henderson, who spoke of the pressure placed on local government during the same-sex marriage postal survey.

“Personally I feel very angry at the federal government for failing to take a stand and do what they're meant to do and debate a matter of national interest which has to be decided at a federal level,” she said on Monday.

“Instead they've thrown this woolly, inconclusive survey exercise into the community that has generated a huge amount of emotion.”