Last week former Tumut Mayor Trina Thomson quit the Snowy Valleys Local Representatives Council in dramatic fashion, publishing a detailed letter to the community in this paper.
Ms Thomson, a former supporter of the Tumut-Tumbarumba council merger, accused the merger process overseen by Administrator Paul Sullivan as being “ad-hoc, poorly planned and organised and … badly managed from day one.”
However, Mr Sullivan said he found her comments to be “grossly unfair.”
“It’s rather ironic, that she’s decided to resign publicly when our last LRC meeting was this week,” he said.
“I like Trina as a person, but really, in this case, I think it’s a little silly resigning a week before the LRC was going to wrap up anyway.
“There’s nothing new there that she hasn’t said before.”
After the amalgamation of Tumut and Tumbarumba councils last year Mr Sullivan was appointed to manage the process until council elections for the new Snowy Valleys Shire were held this September. Two organisations, the Implementation Advisory Group and the Local Representatives Council, were created with a membership of local residents to help Mr Sullivan through the process. However, Ms Thomson said the LRC was “never given opportunity for significant input.”
Mr Sullivan believes she is simply put-out by not being put on the IAG as well.
“I have a lot of respect for Trina, she’s done some great stuff in the past because she’s a very passionate person, and she’s entitled to her opinion. But the fact is Trina wanted to be on the IAG and she wasn’t.”
Mr Sullivan has had a lot of heat from the Tumbarumba side over the past year, but former Tumut councillors like Trina Thomson and Scott Stevenson were initially in favour of the merger.
Now, with this letter and with Scott Stevenson being kicked off the LRC after speaking in favour of a democratic plebiscite to decide if the merger should continue, both sides seem to be saying the same things. Save Our Shire President Lucy Henderson, for one, enjoyed reading Trina’s letter.
“Thank goodness she’s come to her senses,” Ms Henderson said.
“She was such a strong advocate for the amalgamations, and she says all of this, well it just proves that we were right all along – that we are right in what we’re fighting for.
“Sullivan’s going round on his listening tour, well I hope he listens to Trina.
“Tumba won’t give up fighting until we are demerged, and we regain our shire, our identity, and our community.”
Julie Giddings, an LRC member from the Tumbarumba side, also quit the group at the start of April, giving as a reason that she felt the LRC wasn’t being listened to. Scott Stevenson pointed to that fact as evidence the problems cited by Ms Thomson weren’t factional, but were felt across the board.
“I agree with a lot of Trina’s points in her article. The LRC, I think, was a bit of window dressing,” he said.
“I was Chairman of the LRC, and there were situations where I’d put stuff in the agenda, and I’d show up for the meeting and the agenda had been changed. I don’t think it was utilised as it could have been.
“It’s sad, Trina has given an enormous amount to this community and she’s still got a lot to give.”
As for Ms Thomson herself, she said since her letter was published on Friday she has received “phenomenal support.”
“I’ve had phone calls from people that I had no idea that they even cared. It’s been really lovely,” she said.
“It’s also an incredibly difficult time. Someone said, I suppose you’re relieved, and I said, no, I’m heartbroken. I’ve invested 13 years in [council], for what I believe were all the right reasons.
“I really think the community needs to know why I’m leaving the LRC, and the fact that when I nominated for the LRC it was because I thought it was really important for people from the community to show leadership, and to show that there were people who were willing to work with the new council entity to try and make a difference.
“What makes me really sad is that that is so far removed from what’s actually happened.”
She said she is “95 per cent sure” that she won’t be running for council again this year.