By Michael Giles
TODAY we have been advised that the Minister for Local Government, Marlene Kairouz, has appointed a municipal monitor to examine governance at the South Gippsland Shire Council.
When such an event occurred at the Central Goldfields Shire in July 2017, it was a precursor to the whole council being sacked only a month later.
In South Gippsland’s case, the Minister should simply cut to the chase.
According to Section 223 of the Local Government Act, the ratepayers of the shire, not the State Government, must pay the municipal monitor’s salary and expenses, a figure that’s likely to be north of $200,000pa pro-rata.
That’s more money this dud council has cost us.
But worse than all the money the shire has wasted on legal expenses, the caravan park shemozzle and its botched response to the Bald Hills Wind Farm noise complaints is the fact that the council and the shire’s admin have become completely distracted by the dysfunctional nature of the council.
The leaking of information and the inability of the councillors to work with each other and the administration is cruelling the operation of the shire to the point where the release of information must be guarded, decision making is poor and everyone is covering their own tracks in an effort to avoid criticism.
And it’s impossible to see that changing.
Several of the councillors have long-standing personal agendas that appear to be unresolvable, that is, they’ll continue their present course of behavior regardless.
The same councillors with the personal agendas are also the ones that deny there is any bullying or workplace health and safety issues associated with the toxic environment they have created.
But we’ve seen it in action and it must stop.
Rightly or wrongly, Cr Andrew McEwen, is being investigated by the Local Government Inspectorate for allegedly releasing confidential information but if he didn’t do it, someone did, and until that person is found it implicates the whole council.
Other complaints about the behavior of councillors and officers, including sackable offences we’re told, have also been reported to the Inspectorate.
All this turmoil has seen the council take its eye off the ball.
Where the shire should be negotiating with Saputo for new investment and jobs at the Leongatha factory, getting State Ministers down here to pledge money for the extension of the rail trail to Clyde, and committing to the redevelopment of Leongatha’s and Korumburra’s streetscapes and railyards… we’re talking about bloody Ansevata!
The community has had enough, the State Government has clearly had enough too and the sooner they sack the lot of them the better.