WODONGA Council is under fire for bullying after stopping its visitor info centre volunteers from talking to the media about the demise of the city’s tourism office.
Maggie Reid, who has been an unpaid visitor centre helper since 1998, quit in disgust on Wednesday following the council deciding this week to close the Hovell Street site.
She said volunteers were told at a meeting on Tuesday by council tourism chief Simone Hogg that they should not speak to the media.
“I am absolutely gutted, this has been part of my life for so long,” Ms Reid said.
“The tipping point is the anger I feel at the council’s narrow-mindedness at the decision to close and not to explore other options.”
The Wodonga Ratepayers’ Association president Ian Deegan was left outraged at the gag on helpers.
“That’s just bullying, it’s bloody disgraceful,” Mr Deegan said.
“What right do they have to do that, paid employees they may have, but with volunteers they don’t.
“Volunteers are the lifeblood of council, without any volunteers councils wouldn’t run.”
Albury Wodonga Motel Social Club president Damien Robinson was shocked at the ban on volunteers.
“Council can’t do that, who do they think they are?” Mr Robinson said.
“That’s not right, what about freedom of speech?”
The Stagecoach Motel owner is disappointed the council is shutting its visitor centre and replacing it with digital terminals.
“I’ve been here for 13 years and I was in Corryong at a motel for 5½ years and it never ceases to amaze me how Wodonga Council always want to put tourism on the backburner,” Mr Robinson said.
“We’ve had lots of different councillors and lots of them don’t think we have anything to offer here, they just think we’re a ‘pass through town’.”
Ms Reid is concerned the city has allocated $20,000 to the terminals, but no funds to their ongoing maintenance.
Council said it had a protocol, that volunteers agreed to, which required the helpers to not speak to the media.