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Clarence Valley News

Valley’s mayoral candidates keep heads down

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Clarence Valley Council mayoral candidates keep heads down

Valley’s mayoral candidates keep heads down

TIM HOWARD

The resignations of five councillors and a general manager plus the election of six new councillors at the December 4 local government elections has created a rare opportunity for Clarence Valley Council.
Electors sprung a minor surprise at the ballot box, electing six new councillors, although two of them, Ian Tiley and Bill Day, are hugely experienced at local government level.
But the departure of what some ratepayers bizarrely termed the “Grafton mafia”: Mayor Jim Simmons, his deputy Jason Kingsley and Crs Richie Williamson, Andrew Baker and Arthur Lysaught (only two are from Grafton) and the resignation of general manager Ashley Lindsay has opened up opportunities in both the elected and executive branches of the council.
With six newbies on the council the accepted wisdom is former Clarence Valley mayor Ian Tiley would be a shoe-in for the top job.
In fact, Greens councillor Greg Clancy, who finished fourth on the popular vote tally, made no secret he and Mr Tiley would run on a Tiley/Clancy ticket for mayor and deputy.
But other councillors have harboured mayoral ambitions.
Karen Toms has stood for the role of mayor or deputy several times without success.
The departure of five councillors who often stood against her could give her the confidence to try again.
Acting against her is the knowledge she was the last councillor elected, meaning in the public eye, she is the least popular member of the council.
Debrah Novak been one of the most vocal and visible councillors since she was elected in 2016.
She has made involvement in the community her watchword and she is an effective communicator in traditional and social media.
Following an election where voters showed they valued a high level of community mindedness, Ms Novak has every right to put herself forward as a candidate for mayor.
The most popular vote winner, Grafton businessman Jeff Smith, has ruled out a run for mayor, but given the strength of his vote, the electorate has clear expectations of him taking a leading role.
Maybe a term as deputy mayor in this shortened term (two years and nine months), would give Mr Smith enough of a taste of life at the top to take tilt at the top job next time.
The position of general manager is even more interesting than the hunt for a new mayor.
A new council has free rein to choose its general manager should it want to and with the departure of Mr Lindsay there has been moves for a change.
Late last year the council voted to appoint the council’s governance director Laura Black as acting general manager while Mr Lindsay completes his leave period and the council decides who it wants in the top job.
But the 5-4 vote for Ms Black was even shakier than it looked. The five councillors who backed her as acting GM were the same five who were not standing for re-election.
During debate on the matter councillors argued it could overturn her appointment in the new year and bring in outside expertise.
In addition there were some queries about Ms Black’s performance as acting general manager while Mr Lindsay was on sick leave in the middle of the year.
She made decisions to refuse some ratepayers access to information which attracted censure from the Information Privacy Commissioner and on a related matter banned council contact with the same ratepayers, which the NSW Ombudsman said did not follow council procedure.
On his return from sick leave Mr Lindsay said he could offer no explanation for Ms Black’s actions in refusing GIPA access and apologised to them for the council’s actions.
But he did support Ms Black’s decision to ban staff contact with the ratepayers because of their unreasonable contact, despite the statement from the Ombudsman’s office.
He also believed the council should continue with Ms Black in the acting GM role because she was across a number of vital projects the council was on a tight deadline to finish.
Ms Black’s performance was also questioned over the late presentation of the 2020-21 annual report, which turned up as a late item of business at the extraordinary council meeting on December 3, the day before the election.
It was revealed there had been errors in the initial report and their had been administrative mistakes made while correcting these errors.
While Ms Black’s handling of these matter was not faulted, her position as a the director of governance generates an expectation she has intimate knowledge in these areas.
These should be the type of issues the new council considers when it hires the GM it wants.

Clarence Valley News

Second death in custody at new jail

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Clarence Correctional Centre

Second death in custody at new jail

By Tim Howard

A 29-year-old inmate has died at Clarence Correctional Centre on June, the second man to die in custody at the jail in the past six weeks.
The man, identified as Dictor Mayen Dongrin, was due to front Coffs Harbour Local Court the following day on two charges of common assault, one of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and two of stalking and intimidation. 
A spokesperson for the jail operator Serco said Mr Dongrin was found unresponsive in a medical holding room by staff around 1.30pm and was pronounced dead by paramedics shortly after.
Serco, Corrective Services NSW and NSW Police were investigating the incident.
All deaths in custody are subject to a coronial inquest.
Mr Dongrin was also involved in a apprehended domestic violence hearing with another family member
The court has ceased all proceedings involving Mr Dongrin because of his death.
The spokesperson said Serco extends its condolences to the family and friends of the man.

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Clarence Valley News

Body of man located in floodwaters near Grafton

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THE NSW NORTHERN RIVERS TIMES NEWSPAPER

Body of man located in floodwaters near Grafton

The body of a man has been recovered from a property in the state’s north.

Officers attached to Coffs/Clarence Police District were contacted about 8.30pm yesterday (Thursday 24 March 2022), after reports a 72-year-old man went missing after attempting to cross a flooded roadway on foot near Coaldale Road, Coaldale, about 35km north of Grafton

A search involving local police located the body of a man about 9.15pm a short distance away in a gully.

While he is yet to be formally identified, it is believed to be that of the missing man.

Inquiries are continuing.

A report will be prepared for the information of the coroner.

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Clarence Valley News

Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

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Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

Appeal fails: John Edwards behind bars till 2035

By Tim Howard

A former Grafton school teacher jailed for 24 years for the murder of his wife nearly seven years ago, will serve out his entire sentence.
John Wallace Edwards, 65, was convicted of the murder of Sharon Edwards in December 2019 and jailed for 24 years with a non-parole period of 18 years.
On February 14 a panel of three Supreme Court judges, Chief Justice Tom Bathurst and Judges, Stephen Rothman and Hament Dhanji unanimously rejected Edwards’ appeal against his sentence.
At the October 20 hearing, Edwards counsel argued a four-point appeal that the trial judge should have directed the jury to the availability of a manslaughter verdict, and that the murder verdict was unreasonable and could not be supported with the available evidence.
But the Appeal Court was not swayed.
They found the trial judge, Robert Hulme, had provided the jury with sufficient direction on the possibility of a manslaughter verdict.
In addition the defence, while aware of the possibility of a manslaughter verdict, had not argued for it until late in the trial.
Central to the four interconnected points of the appeal was Edwards post-offence behaviour.
Edwards counsel argued the judge should have directed the jury that this behaviour should be described as “intractably neutral”, that is, it was equally indicative of manslaughter or murder.
But the appeal judges found Edwards behaviour after the events of March14-15, 2015, was that of a murderer.
Although they disagreed Edwards had provided “13 different accounts” of what happened on the night of his wife’s disappearance and almost certain death, there were certainly a number of different stories.
They found the differing versions of events and other lies Edwards told indicated he had been prepared to inflict serious injuries that could have led to the death of his wife.
One of the accounts, told to two of his sons, was he had a physical altercation with this wife on the night of her disappearance.
“…yeah he said, ‘He’d, like he’d snatched the iPad, he’d wrestled with her’…he had her hand pinned behind her back or her side and he slammed her on the floor and she hit her head and then she got up and went to bed‘,” a son told the trial jury.
The appeal judges also said evidence he had broken a bone in his right hand, described by a doctor as a “boxer’s fracture”, around the time of the offence, indicated he had been capable of inflicting a blow powerful enough to cause serious injury leading to death.
In his finding Justice Dhanji noted: “There was no evidence of any disturbance consistent with an argument on the night of the deceased’s death. Nothing of this nature was heard by the neighbours. Nor was there any evidence that the applicant was intoxicated. Even if any assault was unplanned, these matters point away from an uncontrolled outbreak of violence. In these circumstances the possibility that the applicant struck the deceased with a blow sufficiently hard to break a bone in his hand suggests a level of force consistent with an intention to cause, at least, really serious injury.
“Further, if, for example the deceased hit her head as a result of falling on a hard surface after such a blow or otherwise, death was unlikely to have been instant. For the reasons discussed above, not seeking assistance and then disposing of the body suggest, a disregard for the deceased, and point away from an intention to do something less than inflict really serious injury.”
Edwards’ determination to withhold the location of his wife’s remains, despite the pain it caused the rest of the family was another indication his wife’s death had been deliberate rather than accidental.
Other indicators, such as Edwards realisation his wife was about to leave him for another man, and financial concerns about their jointly owned properties strengthened the case for a verdict of murder.
The murder of Mrs Edwards, who disappeared after a night out with friends in Grafton in 2015, shocked the Clarence Valley.
Initially treated as a missing person investigation, on April 1 it turned into a homicide case and Edwards and the couple’s three sons made impassioned pleas for people who knew anything to come forward.
The popular teacher had no enemies, but it emerged her marriage to Edwards was finished.
During the trial it emerged she had rekindled a relationship with an old flame, William ‘Billy’ Mills, who had been with her on the night of her disappearance and they had plans to live together.
By mid 2017 and despite no sign of her body, police were convinced Edwards had killed his wife and he was formally charged with murder.
At his trial, which concluded in December 2019, a jury found Edwards guilty of his wife’s murder. Son Josh said after the trial he no longer considered Edwards his father for what he’d done to his mum.
Edwards has never hinted at the location of his wife’s body.
He will serve out the remainder of his sentence of 24 years with a minimum of 18 years non-parole from June 20, 2017. His earliest release date is June 19, 2035.

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