Councillor Fern Summer will not run in 2020

By Ashlea Witoslawski

Councillor Fern Summer has had enough, confirming she will not contest her seat at the 2020 elections.

Legal action, codes of conduct and just banging her head against a brick wall — and now two failed amendments she saw as essential — have finally broken the controversial Shepparton councillor.

Cr Summer said it was time for fresh blood in Greater Shepparton City Council.

She added that internal disputes about her social media activity on the subject of parking led to the decision.

Cr Summer said legal advice was taken by councillors over a Facebook post she made about parking privatisation.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting she voted against the councillor expenses and entitlements policy and the election caretaker provisions policy.

In her concerns about the councillor expenses and entitlements policy, Cr Summer opposed the idea of needing to gain written approval by the majority of councillors before obtaining legal advice.

“It’s an example of a poorly considered solution to a short-term problem at the time; it was in response to issues with the then-CEO,” she said at the meeting.

“To have the majority of councillors before you can go and get legal advice does seem to me unfair.

“They had the majority and I didn’t have the recourse to legally defend myself and funnily enough the legal advice they received indicated I probably didn’t do anything wrong but they still chose to ignore the advice at a cost to ratepayers.”

Cr Summer also shared her concerns about the election caretaker provisions policy, suggesting an amendment of striking out a paragraph which suggests any disputes before an election period will be dropped if the people involved are no longer councillors.

“I will not be running again for council but I would like the opportunity to clear my name from an alleged complaint regardless of whether or not I’m re-elected,” she said.

“I don’t see how you can cut a complaint off on the basis of not being re-elected.”

In a post-meeting conversation, Cr Summer said she was disappointed with “secret meetings” that have now led to mediation.

“All they had to do was come and talk to me about it,” she said.

Also dejected by the outcome of the Shepparton Art Museum development, Cr Summer said she considered taking three months' stress leave at the time, which she took after receiving her warning about the social media post in the mail.

She said she would like to see many of the councillors re-elected for another term, but emphasised the importance of standing up to the organisation.

“They are a great group of councillors and most deserve re-election, but are victim to group-think some of the time,” Cr Summer said.