SINGLETON’S newly elected councillors set off on the right foot at an induction day this week, but a $48,000 cloud hangs over their heads.
Initial agenda items at their first meeting next Monday include reimbursement claims totalling $48,000 for legal costs incurred by two former councillors defending failed code of conduct complaints against them.
Alison Howlett has claimed $16,700 for anonymous claims and $13,600 for claims by developer Tara Hungerford.
Former deputy mayor Paul Nichols has claimed $18,000 for claims by Mrs Hungerford.
The council paid about $150,000 for a Sydney lawyer to investigate these matters and eventually dismissed his reports without action.
Council insiders are hopeful that the new council can fairly and swiftly deal with the claims and move on.
Singleton’s four new councillors, Gary Lowe, Hollee Jenkins, Tessa Capsanis and Bob Keown attended Wednesday’s induction with mayor John Martin, former mayor Sue Moore and long-time councillor Tony McNamara.
The occasion’s good humour was evident when Singleton’s youngest ever councillor, Gary Lowe, faced a light-hearted challenge from evergreen Cr McNamara who thought he may be younger.
While Cr Lowe, at 27, was in fact born half a century before Cr Martin, the wrinkles under Cr McNamara’s eyes indicated his view of his own youth may have been wistfully based.
The levity continued when the gathering was asked what they got from the induction and Cr Keown said “a headache”.
He and Cr Capsanis then gathered their thoughts to say the day was really very positive, with feelings of cooperation and a keenness to move forward prevailing.
Cr Lowe said the realisation of actually being a councillor was very humbling.
“Whether it’s your first day in the chambers or you’ve been here before, I think everyone of us feels an extreme honour in being elected,” he said.
“Today’s been rewarding meeting the general manager, her colleagues and other councillors in the chambers, I know all of us will be well supported while fulfilling our responsibilities.
“I’ve only been a councillor since breakfast time and have a lot to learn about the processes involved, so I’ll be liaising as much as possible with councillors and staff.
Cr Lowe said the most important thing for him would be to communicate with the public.
“I report to the community,” he said.
“The community puts its faith in councillors to represent them, that’s why these positions exist.
“Social media is one of the best ways for me to communicate, I’m already getting a lot of interest there so I’ll be using it for feedback, to connect with people and keep them updated on the things the council is doing.”