By Michael Giles
THE Minister for Local Government Adem Somyurek could have sent a letter to the South Gippsland Shire Council last week telling them to stop the appointment of an Acting Chief Executive Officer before last Wednesday’s debacle.
Unfortunately, that egg can no longer be unscrambled.
We understand that the outgoing CEO Tim Tamlin, possibly one of the best local government administrators in the State, has already accepted a position in the private sector and will be lost to South Gippsland regardless of what happens now.
He seems certain to depart well before his contract officially expires on June 25.
So, why didn’t the Minister act?
He knew full well what the council was attempting to do last Wednesday, that they were flouting all sorts of proper process and good governance, but still he sat on his hands and let it happen.
He may simply have been waiting for the council to seal its own fate with this latest act of madness but if it was so wrong, as he claimed last Friday in interviews on radio, why didn’t he stop it?
Certainly, the community has welcomed his announcement of a Commission of Inquiry to “look at the stability of the Council, the behaviours of individual councillors, the process of hiring a CEO and the efficiency and effectiveness of governance arrangements in delivering services to the community”.
And hopefully the commission will enjoy the protection of the Parliament so that the names of wrongdoers left out of the Monitors’ report and actions by councillors that were potentially criminal in nature can be exposed.
But how long is that going to take.
The Minister says “weeks not months” but even if he were to address the scope of the inquiry outlined above, it would take too long.
We have another crisis looming, Mr Minister!
On Wednesday, May 22 the Council will hear submissions into the proposed budget, proposed council plan and proposed rating strategy for the period 2019-22 and some of our out-of-control councillors might see this as their last chance to take action on the secret “new direction” the Mayor Cr Hill keeps banging on about.
The councillors would then have the chance to completely alter the rating strategy, budget and council plan at a Special Meeting and Ordinary Council Meeting on Friday, May 29.
Would they do it at this late stage? You can’t predict anything this crazy mob might do.
What the Minister should also do is stop the money being wasted on legal advice.
We are told this week that the Mayor intends “to fight” the commission and is going to use more ratepayers’ money and administration support to do it.
What the Minister should do, if he really has “lost confidence” in the council to govern, doubts its mandate as he says and personally believes they should be sacked, is to bar the mayor and all councillors from the shire offices; get them to hand in their phones, computers and cars and effectively suspend them while the inquiry runs its course.
After last week’s damaging shenanigans, they can’t be trusted to do the right thing while you get your ducks in-a-row.
They’ve already made a monkey out of you after you allowed them a week’s grace to complete their response.
Why trust them now? They can’t even see they’ve done anything wrong. Suspend them, do the inquiry and then sack them! And do it before there’s another train wreck on Wednesday, May 29.