City of Sydney Councillor Angela Vithoulkas has defended her right to ask questions, after claiming the City’s CEO asked her to withdraw a Question on Notice directed to Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore.
Questions on Notice are posed in writing at least a week before Council meetings, to give respondents time to research their answers. Ms Vithoulkas’s question to Ms Moore concerned Kings Cross cheesemonger Claudia Bowman’s involvement in the upcoming Local Government NSW (LGNSW) Conference.
Ms Bowman, who ran unsuccessfully on Ms Moore’s election ticket last year, was scheduled to host an ‘Artisan Cheese and Wine Appreciation Course/Tasting’ on October 3 as part of the conference.
“Ms Bowman is a member of the Clover Moore Independent Team political party,” wrote Ms Vithoulkas in her Question on Notice.
“Which other cheesemongers were approached/invited to provide an activity in the LGNSW 2013 Partners Program?” she asked. “Who made the decision to award the business opportunity to … a member of the Clover Moore political party?”
Ms Vithoulkas told City News that after she placed her Question on Notice, CEO Monica Barone asked her to withdraw it.
“I refused to because it was a valid question as to process and transparency,” said Ms Vithoulkas.
A City of Sydney spokesperson confirmed that “the CEO cannot request Councillors withdraw a question” – however the spokesperson claimed Ms Vithoulkas was not asked to remove her question.
“The CEO informed Councillor Vithoulkas that Council had no involvement in the events planned as part of the LGNSW Conference. In light of that, the CEO sought clarification on whether [she] wanted to proceed with her question,” said the spokesperson.
Ms Vithoulkas insisted she was indeed asked to remove the question, and questioned why the CEO was involving herself in the matter at all.
“Why did the CEO contact a Councillor to even discuss a Question on Notice that was put to the Lord Mayor?” she asked.
A spokesperson for the Lord Mayor said: “The City’s CEO acts independently and was not given any instruction in relation to this Question on Notice.”
The spokesperson said all activities at the LGNSW Conference were arranged by LGNSW – a statement backed by the organisation itself and by Ms Bowman, who forwarded an email trail about the matter to City News.
The trail showed that an official from LGNSW contacted Ms Bowman in March, seeking a quote on hosting a cheese and wine course.
The event has now been dropped from the LGNSW Conference schedule, with organisers citing a lack of registrations.