Failed mayoral minute delays Orange Grove decision

The decision on the Orange Grove discount outlets centre was postponed again when Liverpool mayor Ned Mannoun failed to achieve quorum to debate a confidential mayoral minute at last night’s council meeting.

Cr Mannoun, a Liberal, moved the mayoral minute to the start of the meeting immediately after the prayer was read and asked the public to leave the gallery.

It is believed the mayoral minute related to council’s chief executive officer Farooq Portelli.

Half to the councillors present: Tony Hadchiti (Liberal), Mazhar Hadid (Liberal), Anne Stanley (Labor), Geoff Shelton (Labor) and Peter Harle (Liverpool Community Independents Team) then left the chambers so as not to debate the matter.

Cr Wendy Waller (Labor) was not present due to a long-standing engagement, so five councillors: Ned Mannoun, Ali Karnib (Labor), Peter Ristevski (Liberal), Gus Balloot (Liberal) and Sabrina Mamone (Liberal) stayed inside the chambers. 

A council can only vote on matters when there is a quorum - when more than half the councillors are in the room - so at least one of the councillors that were outside needed to go back into the chambers in order for the debate to go ahead.

If a vote is tied, the mayor also has a deciding vote.

After waiting for half an hour for the councillors to return Cr Mannoun suspended the meeting for an hour and then waited another half an hour to achieve quorum before postponing the meeting to 4pm Monday, December 23.

As a result community members and developers were forced to wait more than two and a half hours outside the chambers and left at 8.30pm with none of the matters on the agenda having been debated or ruled upon.

Mr Portelli said he was disappointed that the mayor didn’t postpone the meeting to another time when it became obvious half of the councillors did not wish to debate the matter.

‘‘The community is being held to ransom here,’’ Mr Portelli said, while waiting outside of the chambers.

‘‘Why should people have to stand out here and wait for hours?

‘‘The mayor should have adjourned the meeting for another time. People are here to do business and this is just wasting everyone’s time.’’

Cr Hadchiti said the mayor could do whatever he wanted but he didn’t want to be involved.

‘‘I don’t agree with this at all and I just won’t be part of it,’’ Cr Hadchiti said.

‘‘This isn’t a split in the Liberal party. We can all vote how we want to and we don’t happen to agree on this issue.’’

Cr Mannoun would not comment on the subject of the mayoral minute or why he moved it to the start of the meeting.

Cr Harle said he was saddened by the whole situation, but councillors could not do anything to prevent Cr Mannoun from making the decision.

‘‘People aren’t going to change their minds now. If they’re out here now, they’re not going to go back in,’’ Cr Harle said.

If councillors did re-enter the chambers, they could have been forced to vote on the matter.

Surprisingly, the confidential matter seemed to have split both the Labor and Liberal parties.

Cr Stanley said throwing people out of a meeting and making them wait for more than two hours right before Christmas isn’t a good look for the council.

‘‘It just makes us look ridiculous,’’ Cr Stanley said.

She said a committee was formed to assess the chief executive officer’s performance.

‘‘His performance review was supposed to go before the September meeting, but it still hasn’t gone before the council.’’

Nabil and Nicholas Gazal, owners of the Orange Grove site, were at the meeting to see whether their application for a discount outlet centre at the site would be approved.

‘‘We understand that politics happens, but it’s a bit frustrating,’’ Nicholas Gazal said.

‘‘We’ve been waiting for nine years for this, so I guess we can wait until Monday.’’

Liverpool Greens representative Signe Westerberg, who attends every council meeting, said she feels democracy is dead in Liverpool.

‘‘Liverpool deserves better than this,’’ Mrs Westerberg said.

Cr Ristevski said he didn’t understand why the other councillors didn’t want to debate the mayoral minute.

‘‘Regardless of their take on it, they could have come in and just participated in the debate,’’ Cr Ristevski said.

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