EXCLUSIVE: Cindi Bush speaks up, defends resignation timing
EXCLUSIVE: FORMER Gladstone councillor Cindi Bush has spoken out at criticism over the timing of her resignation after it was revealed Saturday's by-election would cost ratepayers almost $200,000.
The Queensland Electoral Commission confirmed Mrs Bush's September 17 resignation fell within the middle period of the council electoral cycle, between March 19, 2017 and September 19, 2018, meaning if she had resigned three days later a by-election wouldn't have been required.
Flanked by her husband and respected obstetrician, Dr Adam Bush, when announcing her resignation, Mrs Bush cited the October 1 closure of maternity services at the Gladstone Mater Hospital and family reasons, for her resignation.
Dr Bush announced his resignation from the Gladstone Mater Hospital at the same time.
The Bushes had been considering their options to remain in Gladstone since Mercy Health and Aged Care Central Queensland's June 27 announcement that the Mater maternity service would close.
Mercy Health cited declining birth rates at Gladstone Mater as the reason for its closure, as the service was becoming unviable with "less than 10 births a month".
While it was glossed over at the time, Mrs Bush said she'd been battling with depression for a number of months leading up to the announcement and the Mater maternity closure was "the crunch point".
"It was around mid-July when I intimated to (Gladstone Region mayor) Matt (Burnett) that I wasn't coping very well due to depression. It wasn't solely based on what happened with Adam," Mrs Bush said.
"I went to Matt and at that point he was concerned obviously, but he offered me a leave of absence.
"I just wasn't functioning - there were a few occasions in public where I broke down and I'd get really scared and anxious in crowds.
"I was ready to resign about two or three weeks before I did but there were a few councillors away and they asked if I could hang on a little longer because they wanted to stand beside me when I made the announcement.
"It wasn't a spur of the moment decision - what happened with Adam was the crunch point I suppose - there was nothing here left for us and I didn't want to stay here by myself."
Mrs Bush acknowledged her battle with depression on the day she resigned, but didn't elaborate on it.
"Nobody really knew the lead-up and I said as much I felt I needed to say on the (resignation) day," she said.
"My conscience was playing havoc with me as well. I wasn't going to take money when I'm not doing a job.
"I was just withdrawing and it was getting to the point with the anxiety my memory was going, I kept stuttering, I couldn't think and would just cry all the time and wake up in the morning scared as hell."
The former nurse felt as though she was in mourning during the first weeks after her resignation.
"For about three weeks I was non-functional and incredibly distressed. It was like I was grieving," Mrs Bush said.
"I had lost something that meant so much to me. I felt every single day that I was a councillor I put my heart and soul into that job. It was something very precious to me.
"Generally I had a very good rapport with the public and did my best, so when it was all gone it took me about three weeks of lots of tears and not getting out of bed."
Despite wanting to resign several months before she did, Mrs Bush was asked by Cr Burnett to stay on.
"That morning I had the letter written and everyone was asking 'can you hang on? can you hang on?' but I wanted to do it the week before that," she said.
"We were waiting on Matt (Burnett), who had organised a meeting in a last-ditch effort to see if there was any way to keep the Mater open."
Mrs Bush defended her decision to resign only days before the by-election cutoff.
"From July/August dates weren't a consideration. Every day was torturous. I wasn't thinking of dates I just needed to get out of there," she said.
"I asked (GRC chief financial officer) Mark Holmes what a by-election would cost and where the money comes from, no one knew how much it was going to cost until a couple of weeks after I resigned.
"Matt put in for a postal vote and it was denied and then they found out the cost of a turn-up vote, which there is always a contingency for in the budget.
"It doesn't matter how much you justify it, people would have criticised it. Either way the people got an opportunity to vote, which is their democratic right.
"I know there could have been an appointment, this has happened a couple of times in Gladstone and the last time it happened people wanted an election and not an appointment.
"The time before that they wanted an appointment and not an election. You just can't pick what people want."
Cr Burnett confirmed he had made a number of attempts to keep Mrs Bush on council.
"Since the decision from the Mater Hospital, Cindi held on and to be quite honest she held on longer than she was going to at my request," Cr Burnett said.
"She's a community champion and I did not want her to go. I said 'you can do this, you can do this, you can stay' and she did as long as she possibly could until her husband had no other choice but to make the decision to leave.
"At the end of the day she wanted to make the decision months before and I begged her to stay on because a) I didn't want a by-election because I didn't want to put the community through the cost and b) I wanted to keep Cindi on my council.
"She was well within her rights to resign as she did.
"I think in this way, and I know it's going to cost us money because ECQ run it and send us a bill, but the community will pick the replacement councillor."
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