Fury as cutting of cards decides Nairn River Community Council's office bearers
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Deep divisions in Nairn River Community Council remain after a fractious annual general meeting conducted online.
Nearly 30 people, including 12 elected members, logged into the Zoom meeting which was chaired by Inverness Ness-side councillor Ron MacWilliam.
All four office-bearers were appointed by the cutting of cards, with members divided on six votes each.
The council has been entrenched in two camps in a war of words since it was elected last January after seven months in abeyance, with one group supporting the office-bearers using the chairman’s casting vote and the other six members claiming their views were constantly being overruled and ignored.
Peter Gibson, chairman of Nairn BID, failed in the election for chairman of the community council when the vote was tied 6-6.
Councillor MacWilliam used a pack of cards to determine the winner and vice-chairman Hamish Bain drew an ace and was elected. He took over the reins as council leader when Tommy Hogg took a step back citing health reasons in November. Secretary Mandy Lawson resigned from that role at the meeting and she was thanked for her services by Mr Bain.
Fuel to an already heated meeting was added when Mr Bain’s opponents said no procedure had been agreed in the event of a tied vote and the pack of cards used by Cllr MacWilliam was unsealed.
Another Highland councillor, Liz Macdonald, suggested there was a conflict of interest because Cllr MacWilliam and Mr Bain were friends and active members of the SNP.
Cllr MacWilliam demanded an apology and said he did not know the chairman. Mr Bain said he had seen the Highland councillor only at two Zoom meetings.
Attempts to get the elections stopped were unsuccessful and Simon Noble was appointed secretary – again after a split vote and cutting of cards. His opponent was Mr Bain’s partner Veronica Mackinnon.
Cllr MacWilliam said the cutting of cards was the method used in the event of a tied vote in Highland Council.
He added he would be seeking an apology from his former SNP colleague Liz Macdonald when she refused to give one at the meeting.
Mr Gibson was elected vice- chairman and Ms Mackinnon became treasurer – both after the cutting of cards.
In his chairman’s report, Mr Bain acknowledged it had been a challenging year with the divisions in the community council.
As the meeting came to a close he asked for everyone to draw a line under everything so they could move forward in the interests of the community.
Cllr MacWilliam said: “I was
taken aback by the strength of
feeling about the process [of electing office-bearers in the event of a tie].”
He said it was also normal at such elections to congratulate successful candidates.
“I would urge you [community councillors] to be courteous to each other,” he added.