A council in Tasmania’s north-west has called on the state government to intervene and sack a convicted councillor who was found guilty of sexual offences, because they are powerless to do so.
- A no confidence motion in Darren Fairbrother was passed at the council meeting but it has no power to make him resign
- Mr Fairbrother was found guilty of prohibited behaviour and fined $800 for flashing his penis at a crown prosecutor and her son on a beach last year
- The Deputy Mayor says Mr Fairbrother’s actions “have brought the community of Boat Harbour into disrepute”
Waratah-Wynyard Councillor Darren Fairbrother has refused to resign after he was found guilty and fined $800 for flashing his penis three times at a crown prosecutor and her son on a beach in January last year.
Deputy Mayor Mary Duniam introduced the motion calling on the government to intervene at a meeting last night, which also urged for a review of the Local Government Act.
“Councillor Fairbrother’s activities, for which he has been found guilty and sentenced, have brought the community of Boat Harbour into disrepute, the council and councillors into disrepute, and the whole municipality of Waratah-Wynyard into disrepute,” she said.
“I believe the Minister has the responsibility to the people of Tasmania and has the power to remove Councillor Fairbrother from his role as an elected representative of this council.
“It would also be fair to expect that the state government review and amend the Local Government Act 1993 and local government code of conduct, as a matter of urgency.”
The council also successfully passed a vote of no confidence in Mr Fairbrother, but the motion was largely symbolic and cannot compel him to resign.
Both motions were passed unanimously.
The ABC has reached out to Mr Fairbrother for comment but he has not responded.
Councillor Kevin Hyland, who moved the motion of no confidence, said he knew it was a symbolic gesture, but he felt it was important to have the vote on the record.
“Councillor Fairbrother has treated council and the staff with nothing short of blatant, arrogant, contempt,” Mr Hyland said.
“There’s not much we can do from here, but it is on the council record now, forever and a day.”
Questions of conduct
Before either motion was debated, Mr Fairbrother faced a lengthy stream of questions and statements from members of the local community.
Cody Hutchison began the discussions by asking a question of the room.
“Can all of those people who support registered sex offenders being leaders in the community please raise your hand … anyone?” Mr Hutchison said.
Wynyard resident Corey Speers also questioned Mr Fairbrother’s decision to remain on council.
“In consideration of this, the number of code of conduct complaints against you, and the motion of no confidence in you to be discussed later tonight, I hope you are able to reconsider your position and resign in the best interests of the community,” he said.
Resident Maureen Corbett questioned the message that was sent by allowing Mr Fairbrother to remain on the council.
“The people who voted for Councillor Fairbrother did not vote for such a display of morally repugnant behaviour,” Ms Corbett said.
“Allowing him to stay on council sends the wrong message, particularly to young men in our community.”
Mr Fairbrother opted to take those questions on notice.
Fairbrother ‘reviewing his position’ on council
During Mr Fairbrother’s trial, his defence lawyer, Paul Sullivan, told a Burnie court that his client was “reviewing his position” on council as a result of the court finding.
Mr Fairbrother told the council his review was completed on or about June 5.
“As a result of the review, I have written to the Premier expressing concern and highlighting what appears as a miscarriage of justice within the decision of Magistrate Anderson with a request for affirmative action,” he said.
The Waratah-Wynyard Council has confirmed Mr Fairbrother’s review was not an official council review, but his own personal process.
In a statement, a Tasmanian government spokesperson said Local Government Minister Nic Street said “does not have the authority under the Local Government Act 1993 to remove a councillor”.
“A council can pass a motion of no confidence in a councillor and the motion would be a statement of position of the council,” it said.
“Multiple code of conduct complaints have been lodged under the Local Government Act 1993 against Councillor Fairbrother. A range of sanctions are available to the code of conduct panel if the complaint is upheld, including a period of suspension for up to three months.
“The office of councillor is automatically vacated if its occupant is sentenced for committing an indictable offence. As a summary offence, being sentenced for prohibited behaviour does not result in the office being automatically vacated.”
The spokesperson said Mr Street had “sought advice on options to ensure that the eligibility for the office of councillor is well aligned with community expectations”.
“Appropriate amendments to the Local Government Act 1993 will be considered in the medium term and will not impact on Councillor Fairbrother’s current term as councillor. The government has announced that it will be seeking to amend the code of conduct later this year.”
Another government minister, Roger Jaensch, was asked about the situation at a press conference in Burnie.
“There is a review of the code of conduct underway at the moment as is there a review of local government in its totality,” he said.
“I think Councillor Fairbrother should listen to his community — they put him there, they have expectations of him, they spoke last night very, very clearly about how they feel.
“If he doesn’t apply his judgement, I’m sure the community will when it comes to the elections in October.”
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