Mayor's comments were okay

NO BREACH: The majority of Ceduna councillors found Allan Suter's comments were used as an idiom, and weren't a breach of conduct.
NO BREACH: The majority of Ceduna councillors found Allan Suter's comments were used as an idiom, and weren't a breach of conduct.

THE Ceduna District Council has found a comment made about moving loitering people by mayor Allan Suter was not inappropriate and the mayor has said he would use it again.

Big 4 Ceduna Tourist Park owner Kirk Strathern made a formal complaint on March 20 to the council relating to comments Mr Suter made during the council's March meeting the previous afternoon.

The complaint related to a discussion about people loitering on the main street in Ceduna, when Mr Strathern said Mr Suter commented that trying to move a group of people from area to another "was like trying to herd cats".

The comment was made after a suggestion as to whether an area could be set up for people to go to instead of loitering on the main street.

Mr Strathern said it was inappropriate to use the phrase, especially as the people involved were mostly Aboriginal.

"I feel passionate about racism, I come from a country where it was practiced for many, many years and I believe it was most definitely used in an inappropriate manner," he said.

"It's not commonly used and when talking about a racial group and moving them down the street it's problematic, as we're not talking about moving white people along."

Councillors met to determine whether Mr Suter had breached council conduct with his comments.

Mr Suter said there was never any racial undertone to his comments, and had looked up the meaning before using it.

"The definition of this commonly used saying is pretty explicit, it refers to the difficulty of getting a group of people to go in the same direction," he said.

"If I could return to the same circumstance, I would use the saying again."

Mr Suter was excused from the meeting, with deputy mayor Lynton Brown taking the chair for the proceedings.

Although there was some concern over the mayor's comments, the majority of councillors argued the phrase "herd of cats" was used as an idiom, relating to a definition of trying to control the uncontrollable.

Council members voted via majority decision against the first motion to put the issue before the Local Governance Panel, and via majority decision voted for ruling that Mr Suter's words weren't used in a discriminatory manner and weren't in breach of conduct.

Mr Strathern said this result was outrageous.

"I question the meeting itself, I believe it was illegally formed and the deputy mayor shouldn't have chaired the meeting when he's in a current dispute with me," he said.

"If his case was dealt with then fine, but it's a current ongoing police matter, and in my eyes that's wrong."

Mr Suter said the result was never in doubt for him, and he always tried to be careful about using racially sensitive phrases.

"I was comfortable with the proceedings as I feel the complaint was so ridiculous, and I'm just disappointed at the actions of the person involved," he said.

"I never had the faintest doubt in my mind about the decision, as I always try hard not to use any racist wording."