Council on brink

Watching closely: municipal monitor Peter Stephenson (centre) at last Wednesday’s South Gippsland Shire Council meeting in the Leongatha chamber. He has provided urgent advice to Victorian Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek about whether the two latest resignations impact council’s ability to govern and serve the community.

SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council could be closer to be dismissed by the State Government after another two councillors resigned last Thursday.

The resignations of councillors Jim Fawcett in the morning and then Lorraine Brunt in the evening prompted Victorian Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek to call for urgent advice from municipal monitor Peter Stephenson – who is watching council’s governance – about if the resignations affect council’s ability to govern and deliver services.

If council is sacked, administrators will be appointed to oversee council, and their remuneration and allowances will be paid by council.

Cr Fawcett does not have confidence in council staying, saying, “I do not believe this council is functional and I do not believe this council is making good decisions in the best interests of the community.”

Crs Brunt and Fawcett cited actions by mayor Cr Don Hill and a group of councillors as being behind their decision to quit.

They revealed bullying, poor governance, abuse of process, poor behaviour, attempts to overturn council decisions, councillors threatening other councillors with legal action and councillors allowing their personal objectives to get in the way of their duties as councillors.

Four councillors – including Meg Edwards and Maxine Kiel – have now resigned from council this term, but mayor Cr Hill believes there is nothing wrong within the council group.

In response to the latest resignations, the mayor said, “Whilst every councillor has the right to take such action it is disappointing that they chose not to continue to represent the ratepayers that elected them both and support the decision of council”, referring to council’s decision last Wednesday to advertise the CEO’s position and not re-appoint CEO Tim Tamlin.

“Council is functioning effectively, ensuring a good and appropriate governance standard with the assistance of the oversight of the municipal monitor,” Cr Hill continued.

“The remaining seven councillors will continue to represent the ratepayers to the best of their abilities and will welcome the two new councillors when they take up their positions.

“This event will not impact the ability of council to provide good governance or deliver services to its community.”

In regards to the CEO decision, councillors Fawcett and Brunt said while council was entitled to make such a decision, the way councillors went about doing so was inappropriate, with Cr Brunt saying the decision was “orchestrated”.

The mayor’s response prompted an irate reaction from Cr Brunt, who said, “The content, tone, lack of respect and lack of acknowledgement by our mayor of (my) six years of service and immediate past mayor shows exactly why I have decided to call it a day.

“The comment that the mayor makes that seven councillors will continue to make decision(s) will not be the case. Our effective date of resignation 01-04-2019 will see Jim Fawcett and myself at the March formal meeting.”

Cr Brunt added, “A councillor that is being defamed or attacked by the mayor is rarely shown any support from fellow councillors.”

Cr Aaron Brown said he agreed with councillors Fawcett and Brunt’s allegations about governance, decision making, and inappropriate behaviour demonstrated by some councillors.

However Cr Ray Argento commented on The Star’s Facebook post about the resignation, “Disappointed political game playing by former councillors.”

Cr Argento told The Star he had seen political games between ex-councillors from the former council and those who were re-elected, with accusations made against councillors in general, without them being named.

Cr Hill rejected the allegations of legal threats and said he believed the council would still be in place by June.

Korumburra Business Association president Noelene Cosson said she believed the whole situation was an “embarrassment” for the shire.

“The municipal monitor has been in place now for sometime and he must know everything firsthand on what has been going on with this group of councillors,” she said.

“We hope with these latest resignations he is able to act sooner rather than later as the process has been going on for long enough. 

“We hope the people concerned are named and shamed so the community can see who have been the trouble-makers in all of this and that the people resigning have done so for very good reasons. That would go a long way to healing the damage that is being made.”

Ms Cosson said she believed the business community was “sick of this councillor fighting as it just distracts from getting on with things”.

“Korumburra has some great projects in the pipeline and we don’t want to see anything stalled because of our dysfunctional councillors,” she said.

Short URL: http://thestar.com.au/?p=27781

Posted by on Mar 5 2019. Filed under Featured, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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