The Hobart City Council’s aldermen are hugging a secret to the collective bosom — one of their number has been on leave for six months and could be absent until the next council election in October. An unprecedented absence of 15 months. Paid.

Alderman Lyn Archer’s leave of absence has been recorded on the agenda for general council meetings continuously since 24 July last year. But at a HCC meeting last night, his name didn’t appear. He didn’t appear either. And Lord Mayor Rob Valentine opened the meeting mumbling: “No leave of absences. No apologies.”

This means Archer’s name won’t appear in the minutes as they don’t list those present. So you wouldn’t know he wasn’t there unless you looked at the voting record and by deduction, came to the conclusion that there were only eleven of them.

What’s going on?

Crikey has been told that an alderman can be absent for three consecutive general council meetings without asking for leave of absence or sending apologies.

These meeting are held fortnightly, which means that if this goes on, nothing needs to be done until the meeting on 12 March. And if Archer appeared at that meeting, even if briefly, all would be well.

Crikey understands Archer has been absent for health reasons. The next council election is scheduled to be called on 15 September. Should he resign within six months of that date, his seat would be declared vacant until the election. Should he resign before then, that is, before 15 March, there would be a recount for his seat.

And there’s the rub.

While aldermen no doubt wish him well, they are aware that he would almost certainly be replaced by Peter Donnelly. Donnelly has stood for the HCC many times on a platform of Family Values. He is thought to be on the Christian Right and none of the aldermen want him on Council before the election, because it would give him a big advantage in being reelected.

Archer is chairman of the powerful Development and Services Committee and Margot Giblin raised the effect of his absence on council decisions in the Tasmanian Times last week.

Which is possibly why the aldermen changed tack last night and Alderman Archer disappeared from the record.

Peter Fray

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