Unless a town council changes its approach to public meetings, it’s going to die on its feet.
This was the stark message dealt to Neyland Town Council chairman Mike Harry this week after a recording from their January meeting was played to councillors.
During the recording, members can be heard discussing whether or not to accept town resident Brian Rothero back onto the council, following a disagreement between him and Cllr Harry several years ago.
Following their six-minute discussion, the town clerk – Vanessa Walker – can be heard telling members that their conversation was not being recorded.
“I do not record conversations like this” she is heard telling members. “They are not part of the town council minutes. They are not minuted and should not be recorded.”
But at Monday’s meeting, councillors were played the conversation in its entirety after a copy of the recording had been acquired by Cllr Brian Rothero.
“Having meetings like that where you discuss things behind people’s backs is disgusting,” he said.
“But if that is the way the council is going to go, it’s going to die on its feet.”
Cllr Rothero went on to condemn the members for belittling his character in an open council meeting.
“You had an open meeting, you believed the mic was turned off, and you discussed me in a demeaning and a slanderous manner.
“I joined the council for one reason, like you all have. And that is to benefit, help and promote the town. What I don’t appreciate is being talked about at a council meeting when you assume that the microphone has been switched off.
“The credibility of this council is all about being honest and transparent. But as a result of that conversation, your credibility has gone down the pan.”
After listening to Cllr Rothero’s comments, chairman Mike Harry agreed to wipe the slate clean.
“I didn’t say anything in that meeting that wasn’t factual but yes, it was pretty unpleasant, and you and I have a history.
“ But as far as I’m concerned I’m quite happy to wipe the slate clean. Let’s forget the past. I’ve got no problem in moving forward.”
Cllr Harry’s comments were accepted by Cllr Rothero.
“The council has agreed to record each of its open meetings so that they can go out into the public domain,” he said.
“We now need to turn everything around and get this council up and running again. But if I ever hear anything like this happening again, I shan’t condone it.”