Councillor sacked for missing meetings

A major metropolitan council has voted to sack one of its elected members for failing to turn up to meetings, with the councillor blaming back pain, laryngitis, bronchitis and IT difficulties for her repeated absences.

Aug 25, 2021, updated Aug 25, 2021
HAPPIER TIMES: Former councillor Alicia Schlueter (back), with fellow TTG council members Bernie Keane, Sandy Keane and deputy mayor Lucas Jones. Photo: Facebook

HAPPIER TIMES: Former councillor Alicia Schlueter (back), with fellow TTG council members Bernie Keane, Sandy Keane and deputy mayor Lucas Jones. Photo: Facebook

The trouble-wracked Tea Tree Gully council last night voted to expel ward councillor Alicia Schlueter for missing the past three council meetings, two of which were conducted via Zoom.

Her position in Hillcott Ward, which she has held since late 2018, has now been declared vacant on the council’s website, with a supplementary election to be held to replace her at an estimated cost to ratepayers of $40,000.

In a statement this morning, the council confirmed Schlueter “has been removed from her role as a councillor at the City of Tea Tree Gully”.

“The Council made the difficult decision at last night’s Council meeting after Cr Schlueter missed three consecutive ordinary Council meetings without seeking a leave of absence from the Council,” it said.

The Local Government Act empowers the council to remove her, although it is not compelled to do so.

But Deputy Mayor Lucas Jones said “it was the view of the councillors that we need to ensure residents and property owners of Hillcott Ward have an appropriate level of representation on council”.

“We’re grateful for Councillor Schlueter’s service [and]  wish her all the best in her future endeavours,” he said.

The council has been beset by controversy in recent times, with members repeatedly declaring no confidence in mayor Kevin Knight after an independent report by council lawyers found he had breached its code of conduct several times through his treatment of female staff.

Schlueter sent an email pleading her case, which was received by councillors at 6.42pm last night – understood to be in response to several formal requests by council chief executive John Moyle to respond by a 5pm deadline.

“It was not my intention to miss the three council meetings in a row, I had definitely intended on attending the 10th of August 2021 meeting,” she wrote.

“I missed the 13th of July meeting as I got in my car to drive to Council and had a sudden onset of excruciating back pain in my coccyx, having spent the entire day hard weeding my council verge [and] I couldn’t move for over an hour.”

She said for the next meeting, on July 27, “I was unwell with Laryngitis and Bronchitis”.

For the August meeting, “I was running a bit late, as I had to change my outfit due to abdominal distension”.

“Driving to council my abdominal pain got worse [so] I sat in the car for a little while, then came into the lobby hoping the pain would subside,” she wrote.

Eventually Moyle was summoned to the foyer, telling Schlueter she could sit anywhere to log into the e-meeting.

“I went through to the Banksia Room as I assumed that is where [the other councillors] were sitting, as that is where we always sat for other electronic meetings,” the councillor explained.

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“I tried logging [in] and joining the meeting, unsuccessfully.”

Moyle was again summoned to “check how I was going and I explained I was unable to log in”.

“Being in pain and highly flustered by this stage, I was not thinking clearly and in hindsight I should have walked next door into the council chamber, so I could have been counted as present for the meeting and the Mayor could have seen my vote on the remaining motions,” she said.

Schlueter insisted she “would like to remain on the council and see out my term of office”.

“I like to representing [sic] our community and making decisions that benefit the entire community,” she said.

“I have lived in Hillcott Ward for over half my life… when I decided to nominate as a candidate I did so as I was encourage over the years, often being referred to as a ‘community minded person’ by those around me.

“I have never saw [sic] nominating for council as financial gain for myself or a stepping stone to a career opportunities – I am here because I genuinely want to be here.”

Schlueter insisted she was “an active member of this council”, having “never missed a citizenship ceremony” and attending several other regular functions including RSL events and council “welcome dinners/morning teas”.

“I try to get to as many events in the Tea Tree Gully area as I can, including those not in my ward,” she wrote.

Schlueter declined to immediately comment when contacted by InDaily.

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