- Published on Thursday, 02 June 2005 10:00
CEO Brimbank City Council
Sunshine, Vic., 3020
2 June 2005
Re: Intimidation at Council Meetings
I am writing to you on behalf of the Sunshine Residents and Ratepayers Association (SunRRA) members. We would like to lodge a formal complaint regarding Council meeting procedures and security.
I and many of our members who attended a Brimbank Council meeting on 24/5/05 were shocked to witness a man whose behavior to an innocent female attendee was angry, rude, confrontational and abusive. In the end the innocent victim was forced to ask you, as CEO, for protection and to be escorted to her car.
The man believed the woman had said something untoward while many witnesses agreed that she did not say anything. In fact the lady who did say something tried to clarify this but the gentleman was angry beyond reason and would not hear of it.
It was disappointing to learn that the man in question is Mayor Natalie Suleyman's father. Even more disappointing is the news that he is a State Government Representative and employee who regularly attends Council meetings in that capacity with other similarly employed colleagues.
One has to wonder?
And how can our Mayor hold her head up in this community when her father is behaving so atrociously?
The reason this terrible incident took place is because Council excused the gallery while Councilors considered an "in camera" matter. The gallery was asked to wait outside in the hallway. This instruction resulted in throwing a large number of people together who held diverse views on Council's performance and held Councilors in varying degrees of regard.
It could be construed that Council is partially responsible for enabling such an incident to occur. It only needed one person talking to another person about Council based on their opinion and experience to be overheard by another attendee who may hold a contradictory view.
You would expect that we are mature enough to allow free speech and understand that not everyone will hold our own same view. Unfortunately this has been shown to be untrue of Mr. Hakki Suleyman who is the man in question.
If it was only Mr. Suleyman the situation might have not been so intimidating but there were three men yelling, pointing fingers and abusing anyone who tried to assist the victim in this incident. I believe one of the men was Mr. Suleyman's son and the Mayor's brother but I don't know who the third man is.
The security guard was asked to intervene which he refused to. Is the security guard there to only protect Councilors and not the public?
I personally asked the Mayor, Natalie Suleyman, to intervene and reminded her that she had a duty of care for the public as we were on Council premises. She replied the meeting was over and she had no jurisdiction what happened after that.
The reason the victim felt compelled to come to you for assistance was because the Mayor had refused to help. The security guard had refused to help. The three men were downstairs waiting at the front of the building. In fact everyone who witnessed this terrible scene felt intimidated going downstairs and having to pass these men.
SunRRA would like to see a duty of care statement from your organization in regard to residents and ratepayers attending Council meetings. SunRRA would also like to see a policy on security for members of the public on your premises.
SunRRA would like a reply on what changes need to be implemented to assure the public, residents and ratepayers that this will not happen again. SunRRA would like to know how you will handle this situation in the future should it happen again.
I would strongly suggest an after meeting policy needs to be produced dealing with not only incidents inside Council buildings but on the property outside where a person recently felt quite intimidated by a group of people who approached him after a Council meeting. I understand hoteliers can be held liable by their patrons for incidents that occur outside their premises. I would suggest similar laws would apply here.
SunRRA hopes you act quickly and strongly to take back control of Council meetings from Councilor's family members that attend and influence Council meetings and that you make sure Council procedures don't contribute to inciting a similar unsavory incident in the future.
A complaint will be lodged with the Minister for Local Government, the Minister for Sport and Recreation and the Minister for Victorian Communities regarding this incident.
I look forward to your response.