By Michael Giles

IT HAS taken the new South Gippsland Shire Mayor, Cr Don Hill, less than a month to bring his council to the brink of dismissal.
And it’s his intervention into the delicate negotiations around what is or was potentially one of the biggest commercial developments in the shire’s history, the building of a new state-of-the-art, $15 million supermarket in Korumburra, that could be the last straw.
Oh, Cr Hill is now saying that “the CEO invited Michael to a meeting with the Mayor to discuss council’s terms of sale as per the resolution of council regarding the supermarket”.
But that was a different meeting at a different time, we are told, and one that the CEO Mr Tamlin was scheduled to attend, presumably to keep the negotiations on the rails.
Whatever the case, all these things are likely to be pored over in minute detail if the council is dismissed, as seems likely, but the point is, the mayor’s intervention into the negotiations not only muddied the waters for Michael’s but also upset the other councillors.
Having made a measured
decision about the deal for the sale of the shire’s assets in Korumburra, at its meeting on November 28, and voted accordingly, they were understandably annoyed when they learned the mayor and Cr Rich had negotiated a different position only four days later which the mayor brought back to an Urgent Special Meeting last Wednesday, December 5, where it was rejected.
Whether the mayor’s intentions were to try and stop the deal from falling over or not, there’s always a level of sophistication with these arrangements and by failing to follow protocol, he has exposed himself (and the council) to the fallout.
Cr Hill might recall the terms of reference for the appointment of the municipal monitor at South Gippsland, including that he will “monitor the South Gippsland Shire Council’s (Council) governance processes and practices, with specific regard to the key areas of concern identified by the Chief Municipal Inspector, including (a.) Council’s meeting procedures and decision making, including the use of urgent Special Meetings of council, Notices of Motion and Notices of Rescission; (b.) Council’s policies and processes to manage conflicts of interest; (c.) Council’s policies and processes to manage confidential information… etc”.
This latest situation seems to cut across several of these areas of concern.
If the council was only a matter of $100,000 away from making a deal with Michael’s IGA for the Korumburra development to go ahead, the council should have done the deal and let Michael’s get on with it for the huge benefits it offers to the community.
The firm has already purchased several properties in the development area and is therefore the only one likely to be able to develop a supermarket, plus it gives council some of the funds to go ahead and upgrade community facilities in Korumburra.
The whole thing is a stuff-up and unfortunately Cr Hill’s left-field involvement, well-intentioned though it might be, has only succeeded in putting his council offside and unwilling to bend to the final twist in the deal.