UPDATE 12:30PM Mount Alexander Shire Council was “close to a crisis” following the resignation of Robin Taylor – the third councillor to resign in four months.
Former councillor Tony Bell, who quit in October following a fractious same-sex marriage debate, said the council was “not in a good place”.
“I reckon they're close to a crisis, something's not right,” he said.
Mr Taylor in part resigned due to councillor code of conduct issues stemming from a media interview last year.
Mr Bell said he too had been “hauled over the coals” a number of times for speaking out of line during his tenure.
“If I can't say something to the press that I feel something isn't right or should be done, then I shouldn’t be here,” he said.
“It’s all about toeing the line.”
The shire’s mayor Bronwen Machin rejected both councillors’ claims, suggesting there was no gag order on elected representatives.
“If councillors wish to speak to the media they can, providing they follow certain guidelines,” she said.
“If you don’t agree with a decision, you can say that, you just can’t bag things out in public,” said Cr Machin, who added part of democracy was supporting a majority decision even if you disagreed with it.
“I lost out on the rainbow flag vote, but I supported the overall council stance,” she said.
Cr Machin said she respected each councillors decision to resign, but suggested it wasn’t the first time Mr Taylor had resigned mid-term.
“Being a councillor is hard, stressful work and if you don't have the time then you make your decision based on a whole range of reasons,” she said.
“Our council staff do wonderful things and I will support them through thick and thin.”
UPDATE 10.45am: Mount Alexander mayor Bronwen Machin said councillor Robin Taylor’s resignation was a loss for the shire.
“Robin brought to councillor deliberations a wealth of experience as a councillor, a deep knowledge of our community and a strong capacity to represent the views of many ratepayers,” she said.
“We all listened to him with respect and will miss his knowledge and contributions. We wish him well.”
Mount Alexander chief executive Darren Fuzzard said Mr Taylor had a keen focus on “common sense” decision-making and ensuring adequate funds were directed toward critical infrastructure works.
“Robin was a member of a number of committees, including Camp Reserve, Workspace Australia and the Mount Alexander Shire Audit and Risk Advisory Committee and we also thank him on behalf of those groups for his contribution and effort,” he said.
The Mount Alexander Shire has written to the Victorian Electoral Commission to seek advice on how the vacant seat will be filled.
EARLIER: Mount Alexander Shire councillor Robin Taylor has resigned overnight, making him the third councillor to do so in four months.
Mr Taylor cited the council code of conduct, lack of money spent on capital works and high staff numbers among the reasons for his departure.
“Council is supposed to represent the people and we are failing,” he said on Wednesday morning.
“When a wage bill is higher than a capital works program, something is wrong.”
Mr Taylor was serving his fourth term with Mount Alexander Shire and had spent about 12 years as a councillor.
He said little had improved since the 1995 amalgamation of shires.
“What have we really achieved,” the former Castlemaine Ward councillor said.
“The capital works program is no better but rates have gone up 50 per cent. It just doesn’t add up.”
He said councillors were in a difficult position, with the bureaucrats running the system.
Mr Taylor’s issues with the code of conduct stem from a media interview he did last year talking about staffing numbers, where he got into trouble.
He said he was told only the mayor or chief executive were allowed to provide comment.
“That’s just censorship in some ways,” he said, adding the code of conduct was a clamp on freedom of speech for councillors.
In regards to capital works, he said the money spent on infrastructure was poor and there was too much emphasis placed on the arts.
A $300,000 walking track along the creek was also a sticking point for the former councillor, as was overstaffing at the shire.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Mr Taylor said.
“People are struggling with the high rates but they’re not getting value for money.”
Mr Taylor’s resignation follows mayor Sharon Telford and Castlemaine Ward’s Tony Bell in October last year.
Mr Bell said 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.