Well, after four years of bagging this council and in particular one group of councillors, the Sentinel-Times “newspaper” appears to have come one step closer to bringing this council down.
This “newspaper” has accused councillors of all manner of crimes and rorts and continued in my opinion to misrepresent and sensationalise the news of the day. Not to mention all the opinion dressed up to appear to be news but which is merely biased opinion.
None of those accusations contain any substance of truth.
The latest efforts have the paper compare us to Wangaratta council which was dismissed and although they do say that this is not South Gippsland they do leave the door open for continued abuse of this council by that paper by saying “but it could be”.
What occurred at Wangaratta council is not occurring at South Gippsland.
So, for a balanced view I have decided to put pen to paper and list the facts and actions and let the readers and ratepayers work things out for themselves without the bias.
We are informed that the inspectorate called for the municipal monitor from the minister and the minister appointed the monitor to investigate council’s meeting procedures, current policies and processes to manage conflicts of interest, and the management of confidential information.
All these points are to do with the CEO’s office and are the responsibility of the CEO to implement. If there are issues with these processes the CEO will be the one to make any necessary changes as recommended by the monitor at the end of his 12 months observations. Personally, I believe the policies currently in place on these three areas are all compliant but the minister’s monitor in other cases has made suggestions to improve processes and enable better governance and is just part of the normal process of checks and balances. Something I believe we need in a democratic system.
The inspectorate initiated this process apparently because of an allegation of a leaked memo which did not in my view contain any confidential information. The inspectorate chose not to become involved in the behaviours of the last council when rampant bullying took place against me and two other councillors as well as legal actions instigated by the majority group of past councillors against me because I dared inform the public of the $32 million municipal project and how it was being in my opinion slipped into the budget without the necessary transparency required. I am aware of other allegations made to the inspectorate from the last council which the inspectorate also chose to take no action against. And yet they jump in and throw the works at an alleged leaked memo!
The Sentinel-Times “newspaper” also alludes to a suggestion that the monitor might find evidence of a toxic environment (like at Wangaratta) and waste of ratepayers’ funds on costly legal disputes and wrangles between councillors. There have been no legal expenses on such matters in this council. The only wasted ratepayers’ money was expended on the unfounded complaint against me in the last council and which I was declared innocent of by VCAT and the other code of conduct complaint I myself lodged against a past councillor who broke the rules in a serious way and was found guilty. None of this has occurred in the current council.
The bullying complaints again unfounded were also “reported” in the Sentinel Times “newspaper” and have since been shown to be groundless and without substance.
The paper headlines minister calls time on council conflicts. Where does this come from? No evidence of this at all just more opinion dressed up to look like news. The majority of councillors in my opinion take their role seriously and although we do have some robust debates in council we treat each other properly and professionally. The fact that two councillors chose to make unfounded allegations of bullying etc in the first year is on them but it has not affected the ability and desire of the other seven councillors to achieve outcomes for the community.
Although the new councillors found the first year a challenge, they have settled into the role now and we are together enacting the council plan that we developed together in the first 6 months of this term.
Does this mean all nine councillors think and act the same way? No of course not. We all have differing skill sets and ideas but as a group we are a fully functioning team and achieving outcomes the ratepayers would find acceptable at the end of the day. To date, the ratepayers have seen the removal of the $32 million municipal office precinct and if they read the council plan they will see all the ideas put to the voters in the last election contained within and to be actioned in this term.
What can the ratepayers expect going forward? Many new infrastructure projects and works.
With the work this council is doing behind the scenes and what it has implemented so far I fully expect that at the 2019/20 budget that council will be able if it desires, to put forward a rate reduction of 1% which would represent a 3% reduction after rate capping CPI increases. The following year 2020/21 could see a 2% reduction so two years of negative rate reductions. Effectively a 7% reduction to continued 2% rate rises and no reductions.
I suppose the minister might think that we are in fact working for the ratepayers effectively if we can do such a thing without cutting existing services. Don’t you?
I can also say that by the end of this year ratepayers will see major initiatives put forward by this council that will drive reduced rate demands on ratepayers.
Cr Don Hill, South Gippsland Shire Council.
Editor’s note: The ‘Sentinel-Times’ didn’t invent this. Here are some quotes from Minister Kairouz’s statement on Monday, June 18, 2018:
“Concerns have been raised about the council’s meeting procedures, current policies and processes to manage conflicts of interest, and the management of confidential information.
“Municipal monitors monitor council governance processes and practices, advise councils about possible governance improvements and report to the Minister on any steps taken by a council to improve its governance.
If necessary, a monitor can recommend that the Minister take further governance measures.
“We have serious governance concerns about South Gippsland Shire Council – that’s why we’re appointing a monitor.
“The monitor will help ensure South Gippsland Shire Council properly serves the ratepayers it represents.”
The Minister has “serious concerns” and so does the community, Cr Hill.