Former Glen Eira mayor defends public meeting slur

A GLEN Eira Council critic has accused two-time mayor and current councillor Jamie Hyams of calling her a “bitch’’ at a public meeting, but he says her account is not accurate.

Rosetta Manaszewicz aired her complaint via a public question at the council’s March 18 meeting and has challenged the council to bring him to account.

She said that at a planning conference on March 3 Cr Hyams “called me, among other things, a ‘whining bitch’ in front of another resident. Does council consider this appropriate behaviour? Will council censure Hyams for such behaviour?’’.

Cr Hyams said he used the word, but offered a different account of how he used it, saying he used it as a verb, describing her behaviour.

“You have misrepresented or misheard the words,’’ he said in his reply speech.

He said she contributed to a blog that was relentless in its criticism of the council and the blog carried “baseless and highly defamatory’’ comments about councillors.

Ms Manaszewicz insists Cr Hyams used the word as a noun, to describe her.

Both agree the exchange took place in the foyer of the Caulfield Park Pavillion before a Caulfield Village planning conference, both agree the word was used and both are refusing to back down on their accounts.

Ms Manaszewicz said she was showing a petition to a resident at the time. She said Cr Hyams’ words were unprovoked and something needed to be done.

“There was no misinterpretation in what was said,’’ Ms Manaszewicz said.

“I just think it’s appalling for an elected representative.’’

Cr Mary Delahunty weighed in.

“To refer to someone’s actions as bitching, or indeed to call them a bitch, is derogatory, used in a sexist manner, it’s unacceptable and I’m genuinely aggrieved that council has lowered itself to such a level that a response such as that is read out at an official meeting,’’ Cr Delahunty said.

Last year, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd forced the resignation of the candidate for the safe Labor seat of Hotham, Geoff Lake, amid revelations he verbally abused a wheelchair-bound fellow councillor at a 2002 Monash Council meeting, calling her a “f—ing bitch’’.

That matter went to the Victorian Equal Opportunity Commission at the time and Mr Lake made admissions and apologised.

Glen Eira Council did not answer Ms Manaszewicz’s questions, instead taking them on notice.



The public question & Hyams’ response:

On March 3rd at the Caulfield Village planning conference two time ex-mayor Hyams called me, amongst other things, a ‘whining bitch’ in front of another resident. Does Council consider this appropriate behaviour? Will council censure Hyams for such behaviour?

The Mayor responded. He said: There are several parts to this question. The first part I can invite Cr Hyams to respond. The second part relates to a Council position. Because of the time constraints we ran out of time to come to a collective Council position so I will take the second part On Notice.

Cr Hyams provided a response. He said: “You have misrepresented or misheard the words I used. I didn’t call you a bitch. I used the word as a verb to the effect that you just bitch. It is possible I also used the word whine and said you whine and bitch, but I don’t think so.

The context was that I came across you trying to have a resident sign a petition that called for a Royal Commission into, among other things, alleged conflict of interest of councillor trustees of the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trust, of which I am one. Had this been the sole cause of my comments, they would have been unwarranted. However, that is far from the case.

Glen Eira Council is, by any measure, a well-performing Council. We consistently perform well in public surveys, our rates are among the lowest in Melbourne and the Auditor General regularly praises our performance and compliance. Recent achievements such as GESAC and the new residential planning zones have been widely lauded by many both within Glen Eira and from other councils. Just to name a few of our successes.

You, however, appear to devote a large part of your life to attempting to make this Council look as bad as possible. You are an administrator of and major contributor to an anonymous hate blog that is relentless in its criticism of this Council. In the time
that I read it, I never once saw a post (as opposed to a comment) that had anything positive to say about this Council, and while I have not bothered reading it in over a year, others have assured me that nothing has changed.

You are often seen at Council consultations trying to propagate your critical views around the entrance and I am also assured by others who attend Council meetings that at the end of each meeting, you chase after any journalists who attend to try to have them write about your negative impressions of the meeting.

To give just a few specific examples, when Crs Esakoff, Lipshutz and I were appointed as Trustees to the Caulfield Racecourse Reserve Trust, you organised and submitted a petition calling for us to be replaced as trustees because, according to you, we did not adequately represent the community. You somehow thought that your opinion and those of the 100 or so who you managed to have sign your petition were more important than the nearly 17,000 residents and ratepayers of Glen Eira who voted for one of the three of us to represent them, returning us first in our respective wards.

Your blog has also carried baseless and highly defamatory allegations that I and other councillors have been corrupt in our dealings with the Melbourne Racing Club and the C60 development, and I am reliably informed that you have been personally
circulating these allegations. I am still considering my options in relation to that matter.

In 2009, you were pushing for a review of Council’s dog off-leash areas, and adamant that Harlock Jackson should carry out the review. This was done, by Harlock Jackson, and resulted in a considerable increase in off-leash areas across Glen Eira. However, you still strongly criticised the review and the process, including at a public consultation meeting held by Harlock Jackson as part of the review.

I believe that Councillors are entitled to express their feelings as long as they do so in a way that accords with the expectations of our civic society, and, in this case, for many reasons including those set out above, my comments were acceptable.”

Cr Delahunty. Statement pursuant to Glen Eira Local Law 232(2)(f).

“I accept that Council has taken part of the Public Question on notice but I am aggrieved by the reply in such that it seeks to somehow wash away the language that was used. I find the language that was used to be offensive no matter whether or not you agree with the persons views. I don’t think it’s appropriate for elected representatives, adults, anyone to refer to someone’s actions as bitching or to call them a bitch is derogatory, is used in a really sexist manner is completely unacceptable. I don’t think views held that differ will ever make that acceptable and I am genuinely aggrieved that the Council has literally lowered itself to the level whereby that sort of response was read out at an official meeting. It is sad.”