THE former president of the Italian Seniors Social Club of Dromana wants Mornington Peninsula Shire’s Cr Antonella Celi to apologise after a tense annual meeting at which the former committee resigned and a new one was elected.
Antonio Telera, who was an official at the club for more than a decade, said the Cr Celi was “interfering” and “patronising” to himself, his wife Pina, and former treasurer Loreto Tersigni at the meeting at the Rosebud Memorial Hall, 26 November.
He said when Ms Telera queried Cr Celi’s handling of the meeting she was told to “sit down or I will have you investigated”, hinting at the club’s donations practices during the year in which it handed over $46,000 to hospitals including Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, The Alfred and the Royal Children’s.
Cr Celi rebutted the claims of bad behaviour, saying that as a shire councillor she was invited to attend ex-officio to help chair the meeting and hold elections for office bearers alongside two nominated members of Italian assistance association CO.AS.IT.
“It was a very professionally run meeting and any allegations against me or the running of the meeting are unfounded,” she said.
“I made sure the meeting [was conducted] as per the agenda and gave good governance and guidance.
“We were there to install a new committee and I fulfilled my role.”
Cr Celi said there were “robust discussions” during the meeting and “some behaviour [that] needed to be addressed”.
Mr Telera said he assumed Cr Celi was “invited as an observer and not to chair the meeting, as there were already two representatives from the Italian assistance association CO.AS.IT there”.
He said the imposition of these newcomers breached meeting rules as prescribed by the Consumer Affairs Incorporation Reform Act 2012 which states that the “president or, in the president’s absence, the vice-president is the chairperson for any general meetings and committee meetings”.
Also: “If the president and the vice-president are both absent, or are unable to preside, the chairperson of the meeting must be … a member elected by the other members present”.
“It was not a democratic meeting [but] directed by the two members from CO.AS.IT and supported by Cr Celi,” Mr Telera said. “They were only supposed to be there as mediators, yet they chaired the meeting; they were the only speakers and nobody else was allowed to say anything.”
He described voting as a “big mess”, with some members “even putting up two hands” when the votes were taken.
“There was so much anger, luckily nothing seriously happened.”
The new committee elected by a show of hands consisted of president Domenico Fragiacomo, secretary Mila Kelaway and treasurer Angela Butera.
Mr Telera said Cr Celi “incited members against the old committee by saying there should be an investigation into money donated to charities”.
He defended the gifts, made up of grants and internal fundraising, saying uncertainties due to the COVID-19 lockdowns earlier in the year, and the ill-health and deaths of some committee members, meant the club’s future was uncertain and it was best to “give back to the community”.
Mr Telera said he was “expecting a public apology” from [Cr Celi] and that letters and receipts from the various charities involved were “all available on request”.