MAXINE Kiel has resigned from her position as a councillor at South Gippsland Shire citing her frustration at the conduct of fellow councillors and her own personal wellbeing.
An emotional Ms Kiel made the announcement at a council meeting last Wednesday, highlighting several incidences that have taken place amongst council ranks in the last 12 months.
“I’ve been working hard in my role as councillor and I find it very difficult to be effective when it appears to me other members of council are not here to achieve council’s policy objectives,” Ms Kiel said.
The former councillor referred to the ongoing review being conducted into the governance of the South Gippsland Shire and the current dispute between the council and the family company of Cr Jeremy Rich.
Ms Kiel also pointed out a police raid that took place on Cr Andrew McEwen’s home in regards to leaked documents in May – of which the Local Government Inspectorate confirmed is an investigation is still ongoing despite Cr McEwen telling The Star his laptop was returned to him two months ago.
“The tone being set by council with headlines like these is certainly not in mind when I put my hand up for election,” Ms Kiel said.
Ms Kiel also spoke of the harassment she says she received during her two years on council.
“In my first year I was elected deputy mayor and at the end of my term I made a speech regarding what I consider to be unacceptable councillor conduct,” Ms Kiel said.
“I decided to give it another go for 12 months to see if things would get better but they certainly have not.”
Ms Kiel said she felt frustrated at her lack of ability to make change whilst a member of council and is better off serving the community in another capacity.
“Life as a councillor has not met my expectations,” Ms Kiel said.
“Quite frankly, I believe I was achieving more through my membership with the various committees I engaged with prior to being elected as a councillor.”
Ms Kiel was implored to run for council after she received a swell of support from locals after being named the South Gippsland Citizen of the Year for her volunteer work in 2016.
South Gippsland Shire mayor Lorraine Brunt said Ms Kiel had been a big asset to council and that she would be greatly missed.
“I am disappointed that I will no longer be able to work alongside such a diligent and capable community representative, but I understand and respect the decision she has made,” Cr Brunt said.
“No one could have anticipated the challenges inherent in being part of this council group.”
In light of Ms Kiel’s resignation, the Victorian Electoral Commission will distribute Ms Kiel’s second preference votes from the last election to the remaining candidates who stood in 2016.
If there is no clear majority for another candidate after redistribution, a bi election will be called.
In contention for the recently vacated seat are former South Gippsland Shire Council mayor Jim Fawcett and former councillor Nigel Hutchinson-Brookes.
In addition to Ms Kiel’s departure, Cr Meg Edwards may also be vacating her position on council in November if elected to the Eastern Victoria Region seat in the Legislative Council, creating another vacancy on council.
Upon her departure, Ms Kiel thanked South Gippsland staff members, and in particular, Cr Brunt.
“I will always value the friendship, advice and leadership you have shown this year in what has been one of the most challenging years of a council ever,” Ms Kiel addressed to Cr Brunt.
“Councillors, when you look back at the end of your term I’ll leave one thought for you and that is to think about what could have been.
“I know that I will always wonder what we could have achieved if we worked together for the good of the community.”
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