CR LES Larke has “done a Lazarus” and come back from apparent political death, in the days before voting packs arrived, to sensationally reclaim his seat on the Bass Coast Shire Council.
Accused of corruption, the brunt of illegally leaked emails from within the council and a dirty tricks campaign during voting, Cr Larke was subsequently exonerated by the Victorian Local Government Inspectorate, over an incident that had allegedly occurred 18 months earlier, but had been trumped up close to the poll for maximum impact.
Having been cleared by the LGI, Cr Larke fought on and has won the support of local voters, in Inverloch and Wonthaggi, to win through in the final analysis, reportedly by a mere 25 votes over Greens candidate and Cape Paterson accountant Michael Nugent.
Nugent was quick to post his concession speech online: “Calculation of preferences is complete and will be declared final at midday failing anything untoward. Unfortunately, in the end I was 15 votes under a quota for the final spot and les Larke was 10 over, so I lost to him by 25 votes – c’est la vie. Hearty congratulations to Brett Tessari, Letitia Laing and Les Larke in Bunurong Ward.”
A recount was reportedly called for, given the tightness of the contest but declined by VEC electoral officers.
For his part, Les Larke has reportedly told friends this morning that he’s not holding any grudges and “I just want to look forward”.
At the declaration of the polls today in Wonthaggi, Cr Larke acknowledged that he was surprised to come through, despite the disruption to his campaign, but he thanked the community for its support.
And he told a funny story about telephone call from a constituent in recent days asking if he knew how to get a mouse out from behind their fridge.
“If people are happy to call me up because they think I can help them removing a mouse from behind the fridge, then I guess they think I am approachable on a broad range of issues,” Cr Larke said (or words to that effect).
Larke joins Brett Tessari and new councillor Letitia Laing, representing Bunurong Ward.
Elsewhere, Rochelle Halstead is a new face in Westernport, joining Clare Le Serve and Bruce Kent.
Ron Bauer and David Rooks are new councillors in Island, joining Michael Whelan.
The successful candidates are being sworn in at Wonthaggi today at 12 noon.
Further inquiry sought
It is likely, however, that the last-minute attack on Cr Les Larke will come in for further scrutiny.
Bass Coast Shire Council CEO Ali Wastie this week referred the alleged leaking of confidential council information to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC), issuing the following statement:
“During the 2020 Bass Coast Local Government Election period, Council received a request to investigate the alleged leaking of confidential information relating to the Local Government Inspectorate’s investigation into an alleged incident involving Councillor Larke in 2018,” said Ms Wastie.
“The alleged leaking of confidential information is a serious matter and I have referred the complaint to IBAC for investigation.
“Council will not be in a position to make any further comment until the outcome of the referral to IBAC is known.”
Bunurong Ward successful candidates:
* TESSARI, Brett (1st successful)
* LAING, Leticia (2nd successful)
* LARKE, Les (3rd successful)
NUGENT, Michael 1639 12.84%
TESSARI, Brett 6372 49.91%
LARKE, Les 1327 10.39%
LAING, Leticia 2212 17.33%
BROWN, Julian 1217 9.53%
Island Ward successful candidates:
* WHELAN, Michael (1st successful)
* BAUER, Ron (2nd successful)
* ROOKS, David (3rd successful)
JOBE, Jeni 985 9.75%
SILVA, Darrell 317 3.14%
BELSAR, Ash 708 7.01%
BARLOW, Mikhaela 438 4.33%
WHELAN, Michael 2544 25.17%
ROOKS, David 2135 21.13%
CERINI, Trish 740 7.32%
BAUER, Ron 2239 22.16%
Westernport Ward successful candidates:
* KENT, Bruce (1st successful)
* HALSTEAD, Rochelle (2nd successful)
* LE SERVE, Clare (3rd successful)
ELLIS, Geoff 2072 19.08%
KENT, Bruce 3428 31.57%
HALSTEAD, Rochelle 2872 26.45%
LE SERVE, Clare 2485 2.89%