NO ONE is supposed to reveal the contents of the Municipal Monitor’s report which was the basis of a show-cause notice issued last week to the South Gippsland Shire Council by the Minister for Local Government, Adem Somyurek.
But, according to South Gippsland Mayor, Cr Don Hill, it doesn’t stop him talking about what’s NOT in the report.
And what’s not in the report, said Cr Hill this week, is any reference to the councillor-on-councillor bullying alleged to have occurred by departing councillors Kiel, Edwards, Fawcett and Brunt.
“What’s not in the report is that there’s not one observation (by the monitor) about bullying by one councillor against another. Not one,” said Cr Hill.
“So, all that talk in the media and by the other councillors has not been referred to in the report.”
Asked if there was any reference to bullying by councillors of council staff, he said he couldn’t comment.
It is understood that one incident of alleged bullying, by Cr Jeremy Rich of a shire staff member, has been referred to in the report.
It’s treading a fine line but it’s evidence, according to Cr Hill that the case against South Gippsland is no where near as serious as others that have led to sanctions or dismissal by previous governments.
“If you compared us to them, we wouldn’t even get on the first rung,” said Cr Hill.
His comments followed a post by him on the ‘Progressive Reform for South Gippsland’ Facebook page operated by himself and council colleague Cr Andrew McEwen in which Cr Hill acknowledges the stress the Minister’s announcement has caused.
“Councillors have been averaging a couple of hours sleep each night – it is a difficult thing to deal with when good people are falsely accused as this Council has been and although we know people in the community who understand what has happened support us in this time of
difficulty, it is still hard,” said Cr Hill in part.
He posted the note at 1.30am on Monday morning this week.
Last Tuesday the State Government issued a notice to the South Gippsland Shire “seeking a response as to why it should not be suspended following a recommendation from the Municipal Monitor to the Council”.
Minister for Local Government, Adem Somyurek, said he had received the final report from Municipal Monitor Peter Stephenson in relation to the governance and performance of the South Gippsland Shire Council.
“The Monitor has recommended the Council be suspended in accordance with section 219 of the Local Government Act 1989 and an administrator be appointed.
“The Monitor also recommended that at the end of the suspension the Councillors be required to undertake governance training.”
The council has 28 days to provide submissions about issues raised in the final report and steps taken to address those issues.
They have until May 5 to respond we are told, with Easter taken out.
“The final report and the response from the council will be made public after this period has lapsed. The Minister will determine whether further action is required following an assessment of the final report, careful consideration of any council submissions and any other relevant considerations.
“It’s important we get this right by making well-informed decisions in the best interests of the South Gippsland community,” said Minister Somyurek.
“The Council needs time out to reflect on its failure to provide good governance in the best interests of the South Gippsland community.
“This will be a chance for the Council to work out how to work constructively as a team and build faith with the local community.”
In his initial response, the mayor noted that “the delivery of the final report from Municipal Monitor Mr Peter Stephenson concludes his appointment at Council, effective from April 4, 2019.”
“Council will now take time to absorb and respond to the report. Whilst this process occurs, Council wishes to reassure the community we will be conducting business as usual and that the service delivery and day to day functions of the Shire will continue, including scheduled Community Forums.”