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"The gloves are off": Kangaroo Island Council hits back at MP

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The Kangaroo Island Council has hit back at local MP Michael Pengilly after he launched a scathing attack against the council in parliament.

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Kangaroo Island Council

Pengilly used parliamentary privilege last week to slam what he called the “unethical” council and its “tyrannical” chief executive officer Andrew Boardman, who he accused of bullying and intimidation.

Kangaroo Island Mayor Peter Clements has described the tirade as “distressing, false and libellous” in a letter sent to every member of State Parliament yesterday.

“We completely repudiate the distressing, false and libellous statements made by you and would request that you produce meaningful evidence to validate these statements,” the letter says.

“We are deeply concerned that you have chosen to use parliamentary privilege to raise matters rather than dealing directly with the council or referring matters to the relevant authorities established by the Parliament.”

Clements told InDaily the council was considering a number of options to pursue Pengilly, including referring him to parliament’s Privileges Committee.

“The gloves are off,” the Mayor told InDaily this morning.

“We’ve just got to stop him undermining the [Kangaroo Island] community in this way.

“We’re going to pursue this to the end.”

Clements told InDaily the council was seeking advice from the Local Government Association on the best way to “restore the reputation” of the council following Pengilly’s attack.

The Finniss MP and former KI Mayor told Parliament last week that “the council is ethically bankrupt, it is almost financially bankrupt, and the poor old ratepayers will have to pick it up and sort it out”.

He said there had been “four years of tyrannical rule at that council by the current chief executive officer”.

Pengilly also suggested that Clements and Boardman had failed to exclude themselves from a council meeting earlier last week, which considered State Ombudsman Wayne Lines’s finding that that the council had acted unlawfully in its handling of a prime foreshore land deal.

Pengilly claimed in parliament that Clements and Boardman had a “conflict of interest” and should have excluded themselves, but he did not detail how they were conflicted.

Clements’ letter rejects any conflict of interest.

It also says the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander had agreed to hold a public meeting on the island following the Ombudsman’s finding.

The meeting, the letter reads, would inform KI residents about how they can place a complaint “about council members or staff if they believe that inappropriate behaviour or decisions have been made”.

Clements’ letter also defends the council’s ethical and financial credentials, and rejects Pengilly’s accusations that Boardman was a bully.

“The accusations of bullying and intimidation are serious, and I note that you have raised these accusations without any evidence supplied,” the letter reads.

“It is simply wrong and unfair to suggest that the CEO ‘bullies’ councillors.

“I advise that these accusations are not acceptable to any degree and you render all staff and elected members of Kangaroo Island a huge disservice.

“Most councils in Australia would give their eyeteeth to have a CEO such as Mr Boardman – his commitment and dedication to Kangaroo Island is unswerving and his dynamism is unparalleled in Local Government circles.

“Your unfounded criticism of our CEO is in direct contrast to your original documented praise for his work.”

The letter says that Boardman had been subject to annual performance reviews by the council, and that in “the last annual appraisal … no issues of the nature you are suggesting was reported to Council by the consultant”.

“I can also advise you that previous assessments have not revealed issues of the nature you have suggested.

Clements also rejected Pengilly’s claims Boardman was “inexperienced”.

“The CEO has been in director-level roles for the last 22 years and has considerable experience in managing large, multi-faceted corporate businesses in developed and developing countries.”

Defending the council’s financial performance, Clements writes that the council had “achieved and bettered every financial projection made in the last four years”.

“…the Kangaroo Island Council is financially in the best position it has ever been.

“With 6 years of unqualified audits and a long term plan for financial sustainability, coupled with a string of positive economic development initiatives promoted by council, we are confident that our island’s future is in safe hands.

“[That] is not the description of an ethically or financially bankrupt organisation.”

Clements claims in the letter that Pengilly has “a reputation for being unwise with [his] choice of words”.

The Mayor also conceded in the letter that there had been serious problems within the council over the past several years.

There had been, he writes, “a continuing attempt by certain current and past elected members seeking to bring Council and each other down with multiple code of conduct investigations, Ombudsman investigations … [and] use of process to disable the ability of officers to conduct the important business of delivering services to the community”.

The council held a special meeting yesterday morning to endorse a response to Pengilly’s allegations.

Pengilly told InDaily this afternoon that he “expected a counter attack” and defended his use of parliamentary privilege to air his concerns about the council.

He said he was waiting to find out whether Local Government Minister Geoff Brock would take any action against the council.

However, that seems unlikely – Brock told InDaily last week it was “concerning that Mr Pengilly has made a number of accusations against the council under parliamentary privilege”.

He should consider providing the Ombudsman with any evidence he has to back up his statements.”

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