By Michael Giles
NOT good enough, Minister!
The Minister for Local Government, Adem Somyurek, has allowed a further two-week extension of time for the Commission of Inquiry to complete its investigation into the situation at the South Gippsland Shire Council.
Last Friday, the Commission was interviewing each of the councillors in turn, at a special hearing in Leongatha.
But, is the Commission aware, that while the Minister leaves the council in place, it is participating in further poor governance and costing the beleaguered ratepayers of the shire, 100s of thousands of dollars more.
Last Wednesday, May 22, after two council meetings to hear public submissions on the new budget, new council plan and new rating strategy, councillors met behind closed doors… but not all of them.
The majority block councillors in the Don Hill camp, excluded Cr
Aaron Brown from their discussions, for fear that he would blow the whistle on the cost and substance of legal action his colleagues were receiving – not from council’s appointed solicitors but someone completely different.
With the council’s response to the Municipal Monitors’ report long gone, submitted on May 9, there can be little doubt that the “in camera” meeting was a strategy session for councillors about how to approach their appearance in front of the Commission.
Almost certainly it was for coaching purposes so councillors had their story straight.
Apparently, our august representatives also want us, the ratepayers, to pay the bill for that having already paid $60,000 for the cost of having their 130-page response legaled.
We may also have to pay for the cost of the Commission of Inquiry as well, purely because the Minister didn’t want to make a decision when it should have been done several weeks ago.
We’ve got the situation now where another new councillor, Matt Sherry, has been appointed to fill the vacancy left by Jeremy Rich, who is facing serious drug charges, and there’s a real threat that this crazy council will try to rejig the budget and hit commercial property owners with a new rating strategy before the curtain comes down.
And don’t forget the inquiry into the leaking of confidential documents, allegedly by Cr Andrew McEwen, and a new inquiry it seems, into the mayor himself over the release of the 6:3 vote against the former CEO’s reappointment.
How much has all this madness cost us the ratepayers, not only in legal fees and the like but also in lost effort and opportunity as a result of the disruption being caused.
For goodness sake, Minister, do your job! No more delays.