[This post is a copy of a letter sent to all Councillors]
Ratepayers Victoria (RPV) have been contacted by many Monash ratepayers about their concerns of good governance in the manner in which the Monash & Elizabeth Gardens’ matter was handled. Recently, RPV has been advised that about 10,000 people petitioned against the sale of the 2 aged care residential facilities. RPV has been interviewing several hundreds of these people and majority of their complaints is not about the decision direction. They were concerned about the lack of transparency and accountability demonstrated in the decision making process. This process also includes the Expression of Interest (EoI) to investigate the intent to sell and now the remainder of the sale process in compliance to the Local Government Act section 189.
RPV has noted that Council has exercised legal compliance procedure in handling the selling process BUT lacks leadership motivation for showing transparency and accountability of the social impacts of the decision to sell the 2 aged residential facilities.
Good governance is not just about legal compliance but interacts with leadership that supports transparency and shows accountability for widely accepted social decisions. Through their observable behaviours, communications and interactions with each other, the five Councillors who voted to sell the aged care facilities have made up their minds and collectively support each other to ignore the fact that their ill-founded arguments for selling is not widely accepted in the community.
These five Councillors are lacking in ethical leadership because of the many reasons the community have highlighted, which consolidates to 3 themes – lacking process and information transparency, poor community consultation and lacking completeness, factuality and research validity of information used in decision-making.
In 2012, the Council knew about the Sweett Consultant’s proposal recommending to sell the 2 aged care residential facilities. On 25 June 2013 and behind a closed meeting, the Council unanimously supported this consultant’s proposal and voted to investigate an EoI to sell the facilities. Unlike past asset sale precedents, the community had not be given the opportunity to be consulted about the matter in its early inception and to this date there is no open disclosure of what were in this Sweett’s proposal or business case that justified the recommendation to consider selling. Anecdotal sources said that this recommendation is some individuals’ self-interests to use legal compliant Council procedures to execute a coveted plan that can avail cash for investing in building a new library and community hub that is part of the Glen Waverley Activity Centre master-plan, also developed during 2012.
This anecdotal information, together with other concerns addressed in the many questions to Council, raise too many questions of ethical decision making despite complying correctly in a procedurally legal context. The answers given by Council are too general, usually avoiding answering the questions, and continue to raise issues of trustworthiness of the responses given and the ethical validity of the 5 Councillors’ overruling decision to sell. During the 29 Oct meeting, the key basis of these 5 Councillors were ill founded, solely motivated by ill founded financial justification and ignores the voice of 10,000 petitioners who are asking for a better transparent and accountable decision making process before finalising a well informed decision.
The Monash Community is asking the Council to consider reviewing a community based solution, which has been excluded in the Sweett Consultant’s proposal and Councillors’ justifications communicated to inquiring community members. Without including this alternative, the decision making process is based on incomplete information and the majority voted decision outcome is therefore not well informed and lacks unbiasedness in intentions.
Furthermore, my committee members and I have attended Council meetings and believe five Councillors were affixed in their minds to sell regardless of the costs to the community. They presented arguments that lacks address thoroughness in solution considerations and cannot clearly indicate the actual cost of doing nothing other than it cost “tens of millions” of dollars. To have such arbitrary information to justify an important community decision not only shows the poor quality of decision making but also the level of competency of the decision makers. In the past, these five Councillors often show passionate community advocacy, such their resolve to overturn a decision to sell the Oakleigh Swimming pool, which only supported a small number of users and to this day has incurred significant cost deficits for Council. The lead Councillor who advocate for the Oakleigh Swimming pool user group, chickened out from voting his decision by being absent.
RPV commemorate the four new Councillors who voted against selling the aged care facilities. Initially, they agreed to consider commencing the EoI process, that is the start of the sale process. However, they consulted and listened to the community, reviewed their decision and communicated that they did not make a well-informed decision earlier. They also admitted that they have not know about and therefore considered the community based solution, nor have not evaluated the social impacts on all segments of the Monash community. Given this situation, they admitted their decision-making lacks sufficient information to support a well advised decision. In the 24 October Council meeting, they have voted responsibly against the sale in this situation.
Many ratepayers have complained to RPV about political fractions in the Monash Council for a very long term. The dividing relationship conflicts between ALP and Liberal affiliated Councillors have become too influencing in many decision directions and is increasingly becoming obviously visible in open behaviour conducts, body language, things being said in Council meetings and local press. It comes to the stage that the community is fed up with such growing political games being carried out in Council, which is not a parliamentary environment.
The community has indicated to us that they are submitting a request that Council carry out a revocation motion. Based on what we have observed as unethical decision making, although legally compliant, we too support this proposal for carrying out a revocation motion.
Ratepayers Victoria is asking every Councillor to support a revocation motion, including considering to investigate a community-based model before making a final decision. Should you refuse to act on this community driven request, we have no choice but to view that your leadership is one that pursues procedurally legal compliance and poorly justified financial returns and disregards explicit support for other aspects of good governance principles and against the interests of the community who voted for you.
This is the “one size fits all” answer many people got from Geoff Lake, our new “I-centred” Mayor who determines what ratepayer should have and not have.
Thank you for your email to councillors on the weekend requesting that Council revoke its decision to progress the transfer of Monash Gardens and Elizabeth Gardens to a new operator.
As you know, this matter has been canvassed extensively in the past few months leading up to the decision made last week by Council. There has been significant community and media interest and every councillor has been engaged in different ways with members of the support groups and the wider community generally in working through the issues involved. Although councillors had different perspectives on the issue and there was spirited debate over whether or not to progress the transfer, Council did formally resolve to do so. As one of the councillors who supported this direction, I assure you that this was not an easy decision, however it was one that we are confident is in the best interests of the existing 165 nursing home and hostel residents at the two facilities, as well as also being in the best interests of Monash ratepayers more generally.
There has been no new information which has come to light, or anything which has changed, between the decision taken by Council last Tuesday and the present time. As such, there is no basis to suggest that Council would be, or should be, of a different mind if re-visiting this decision now compared to the position we were in last week. While I know that you and many family members strongly disagree with Council’s decision, Council was acutely aware of your positions prior to making our decision. For Council to have proceeded in the face of such strong and well organised opposition when it would have been far easier for us to have simply abandoned the process, demonstrates Council’s conviction that the decision we have taken represents the best outcome for residents and ratepayers alike.
Accordingly, I advise that Council will not revoke the resolution passed last week. I think it is important that our position be communicated quickly to you and other interested members of the community as I firmly believe that it is not in the interests of residents at the facilities to hold unrealistic hopes otherwise.
Since the decision, Council has taken steps to commence the due diligence process whereby the short-listed bidders can discover more information about the facilities in order to refine their offers into binding legal offers for Council to consider further. This is also an opportunity for Council to conduct further due diligence on these parties and also to negotiate in relation to such things as a covenant/section 173 agreement to restrict the future use of the land at Monash Gardens. As has been made clear to residents and family members throughout this process, we would be interested to engage with them in working through some of these aspects to assist with ensuring that we achieve the best transition outcome possible for existing residents.
I think it is important to address some of the points you have asserted in your letter. I disagree with your view that the process Council has pursued over the past four months has been flawed. Council had been consulting with affected residents, their families and the wider communities for almost four months prior to us making a decision last week. I think four months provided ample opportunity to residents of the facilities, their families and councillors to fully and comprehensively consider the issues and express a view.
I also disagree with your view that some councillors brought a closed or biased mind to this issue. Councillors have proactively considered, debated, wrestled with, reflected upon and refined their individual viewpoints on this issue over the past four months. In fact, I was unaware of the position of any councillor in terms of whether they did or did not support the sale process proceeding until a few days prior to last week’s Council meeting when councillors considered the draft recommendation at a briefing meeting. Even then, the position of at least four councillors was not known to me until they made contributions to debate during Council’s consideration of the item last week.
It is important to bear in mind that Council’s decision last week was the culmination of an exhaustive process of community consultation and an expression of interest (EOI) process which placed Council in an excellent position to determine an appropriate path forward. I think it is also relevant that by resolving to progress the transfer, Council was acting in furtherance of the professional advice and recommendation of its senior officers and the expert EOI evaluation committee. Of course, Council alone is responsible for our decision and I am not trying to deflect that responsibility, however, I am simply pointing out that the inference in your email that our decision was stubbornly, politically or otherwise unwisely made, is simply not accurate or fair. Indeed, our decision was the outcome of a long and careful process and aligned with the professional advice of Council officers.
I acknowledge that you and many others disagree with our decision. However, please be assured that those of us who are responsible for making it, have reached our position on the basis of considering all of the relevant information available to us, including the valuable representations which you and others have made to us.
Monash Council’s Grab for Cash
On 29 Oct 2013, Monash councillors voted 5 to 4 to sell off the aged care facilities Monash Gardens and Elizabeth Gardens. A conservative estimated value of sale proceeds is expected between $10m to $20m, if not higher. However, according to Cr Davies, after transaction cost reductions, the net cash return can be half, ie between $5m to under $10m.
The four Councillors who voted against it because:
- there is no good financial reason to sell; the financial problems are structural and can be fixed; it is irresponsible to sell during a poor
- they have a legislative responsibility to listen and support a community who does not want the facilities to be sold,
- Money and numbers do not tell the story – there is no understanding about the people impacts
- Not enough solution alternatives have considered to support a well informed decision making.
The five who supported selling all agreed on the basis of:
- Financial non affordability but failed to quote an exact figure of how much is needed to upgrade/refurnish the facilities – all they can say is “tens of millions”
- There is no economy of scale because only 165 people are using the facilities
- There is a professional industry that can best offer aged care (despite people telling them our residential aged care facilities already enjoy over 20 years history of high standard of the quality of care).
On the 28 May 2013, Council voted to conduct a review of car parking arrangements in Glen Waverley. Cr Geoff Lake said that “it was an exciting time in Glen Waverley; it was changing rapidly and for the better. Council is finalising the Glen Waverley Activity Centre Master Plan, which would be released for public consultation in the second half of the year. A successful Activity Centre needs its car parking requirements to be managed well. This Activity Centre currently has close to a surplus of car parking, but that situation will not last long”.
On 24 September 2013, Council staff concluded that current arrangement is not currently at capacity and suggest a review in 12 month’s time.
5.1 CAR PARKING : GLEN WAVERLEY ACTIVITY CENTRE
From Council Agenda 24th September
A review of the parking arrangements in the Glen Waverley Activity Centre has been completed. This review included:
- Traffic surveys to understand the actual utilisation of parking in the centre.
- A survey of local traders and Council staff to understand the issues associated with relocating parking from the Bogong (multi-deck) parking area to the Euneva East (multi-deck) parking area.
The parking surveys demonstrate that there is parking availability in the centre and the current arrangements are adequate based on current usage patterns. Further, the results demonstrate that the Bogong parking area is not currently operating at capacity except in the evenings (after 5 pm).
Cr Geoff Lake expressed concern that the under capacity condition does not meet future needs and recommended to relocate the Bogong Avenue car-park to the Euneva car park not just based on his concern but support by the Glen Waverley Traders’ Association. Other Councillors disagree and/or view that there are other activity centres that require capital developments, not just Glen Waverley.
In the same meeting, he also said as the chair of the Glen Waverley Activity Centre Master-planning Steering Committee he supported the $18-$23m proposal and presumed that potential funding would be determined via the Council’s budget process. The development of an integrated library and community hub was a key integral part of the master-plan.
The big question is WHY is Cr Lake proposing to support relocating Bogong Avenue car-park when it is underutilized today ? It is a no brainer that the likely reason is the integrated library and community hub is to be built on the existing car park site.
Ratepayers Victoria also believes that the sale of council aged care facilities is related to the Bogong Ave multilevel deck car park redevelopment proposed by Cr Lake. The reason is that Council has no other cash reserves and is hesitant to hike up rate increases for such large scale new capital works, and the sale has been engineered behind the scene way before 25 June 2013 Council meeting. What Councillors did not expect was the high community backslash, which will still continue despite the 29 Oct per-orchestrated groupthink decision to sell.
To all Ratepayer groups
The attached insurance quote is subject to at least 20 groups taking part. We need a commitment before proceeding. To be eligible:
- Each group will need to be a member of Ratepayers Vic at a cost $20 pa
- Each group can buy the quoted insurance for $137.39 pa
When the policy is agreed and paid for, we will send a copy to each group.This will mean that each group becomes a sub committee of Ratepayers Victoria Inc. However you continue to operate and manage your own affairs as usual, however showing compliance to our constitutional rules and exercising good conduct behavior.
Additionally, you will need to:
- Declare the number of, names and contact details of your sub-committee members (not ordinary members whom you continue to keep separately)
- Provide to us a copy of your Annual General Meeting.
Once your group becomes a subcommittee of Ratepayers Victoria Inc, your group does not have to continue incorporation and associated annual administration work. You can still operate your own bank account (and budget) – however you will need to inform your bank of incorporation changes. The Management Committee of Ratepayers Victoria Inc. will be there to assist you in resolving your issues upon your request.
We are now discussing collaboration strategies with the Victorian Farmers Federation to increase contributions to reforming the Local Government Act, including support for legislating good governance compliance.
Your support will help us further increase community advocacy and strength our propensity to bring reforms to Councils and making them more transparent, accountable, responsive and collaborative with ratepayers in their community engagement, decision making and other service provisioning matters.
Quote from Prime Minister Kevin Rudd:
‘‘If you’re going to talk about a new way for Australian politics, which is positive, not negative, brings people together, doesn’t divide people, but also is respectful of people, including their gender, then I believe you’ve got to take some hard decisions from time to time. That’s what we’ve done, and I stand by them.’’
The Prime Minister had issued a statement late on Saturday night saying he had asked for Mr Lake to be disendorsed following an investigation by ALP national secretary George Wright and said ” …….I cannot be confident that he has met the standards that I would expect and demand from members of the federal parliamentary Labor Party.”
ABC News (11 Aug 2013) also reported
The Labor Party’s election campaign has been stunned by the loss of two candidates in one day, just a week into the campaign.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has been forced to dump the Labor Party’s candidate for the safe Victorian seat of Hotham, Geoff Lake, over his failure to disclose an altercation with a colleague 11 years ago.
Meanwhile, Labor’s charge for the north Queensland seat of Kennedy, Ken Robertson, has stood aside over comments he made about Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
Last night Mr Rudd issued a statement saying he had requested the party’s national executive remove Mr Lake as the endorsed Labor candidate for Hotham.
Mr Lake, a Monash councillor, last month won a bitterly fought pre-selection to contest the seat being vacated by long-serving Labor frontbencher Simon Crean.
Mr Crean’s former seat is currently a very safe Labor electorate, with a margin of 14 per cent.
But Mr Lake lost the Prime Minister’s confidence after he was forced to apologise for verbally abusing a fellow councillor during an argument at a Monash Council meeting 11 years ago.
News Corporation newspapers reported that Mr Lake apologised to the woman at the time and regretted his actions.
“I was a young mayor and I got angry one night and I spoke to her in angry way, which I acknowledged then and I acknowledge now,” Mr Lake said, according to News Corp.
Mr Rudd says he has stepped in.
“Earlier today, I asked the National Secretary to report on a range of allegations concerning Mr Lake’s conduct in his previous career in local government – in particular his conduct in relation to fellow councillors at the City of Monash Council,” Mr Rudd said.
“The National Secretary has informed me that he is not satisfied that there has been full disclosure about these previous matters.
“Based on the investigation, I have concluded that it is inappropriate for Mr Lake to continue as the endorsed Labor Candidate for Hotham.
“As such I cannot be confident that he has met the standards that I would expect and demand from members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party.”
Within minutes Mr Lake’s profile had been removed from the party’s website. Mr Lake has not returned the ABC’s phone calls.”
More news visit:
A few weeks ago, this is what Geoff Lake had to say about he representing ALP’s “generation next” – click here to watch the video.
RATEPAYERS VICTORIA INC. 8/1248 North Road Oakleigh South 3167
Email : email@example.com or, bra.reynolds088@ gmail.com
Phone 03 9570 6227, 9589 2818 or 9874 0784.
17 June 2013
The Hon Jeanette Powell MLA, Minister for Local Government , 8 Nicholson Street, E/Melb, By email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Minister Powell,
Public Money Being Used to Support a YES Vote in the coming Referendum.
Thank you for the response to my letter dated 1st June 2013, as acknowledgement dated 10th June 2013, which indicates that the matter will be addressed in the normal course of business. From earlier experience that could mean weeks rather than days. This may be too late to enable prompt and fair resolution of the matter.
The current situation appears to be that a number of Councils are sending public money to the MAV which is then sending it on to an unregulated body, the Australian Local Government Association. We see this as a scheme to defraud the true owners of the money if we relate to S 74A of the Constitution Act 1975 (Vic). As such, Councils have no financial capital and may make payments only for a purpose set out in a budget and plan prepared and approved in the manner described in Parts 6, 7 and 8 of the Local Government Act 1989 (Vic) [LGA]. So far we have been unable to find any Council which has made budget provision for voluntary payments to be made to the MAV, to be onsent to the ALGA, for the purpose of supporting the ‘Yes’ case in a referendum which has yet to be legalized by the Australian Parliament.
At the very least, Councils must prepare a revised budget (s128 of the LGA) in order to make these controversial payments. Such a revised budget must then follow the notice provisions and the Public Process set out in s223 of the LGA. Any allocation of funds outside of the budget process is ultra vires – without authority.
All Councillors are required to be on the Electoral Roll. As such they have an obligation to vote in support of either the YES or NO case. When a revised budget to provide funds to promote the support one of their choices comes before Council serious difficulties arise. These are as follows:
- must avoid conflicts between his or her public duties as a Councillor and his or her personal interests and obligations. s76BA(a), and
- endeavor to ensure that public resources are used prudently and solely in the public interest. s76BA(c), and
- must not misuse his or her position to gain, directly or indirectly, an advantage for themselves or any other person. S76D(1)(a).
- must not use public funds or resources in a manner that is improper or unauthorized. S76D(2)(c).
When the matter comes to the vote, all Councillors will have either a direct or indirect conflict of interest. Direct interests are covered by s77B(1) which reads:
A person has a direct interest in a matter if there is a reasonable likelihood that the benefits, obligations, opportunities or circumstances of the person would be directly altered if the matter is decided in a particular way.
Indirect interests are covered by s78B(1)(a) which reads:
A person has an indirect interest in a matter because of a conflicting duty if the person:
(a) is a manager or member of a governing body of a company or body that has a direct interest in a matter
Further, ALL Councillors have a personal conflict of interest in any vote to allocate public funds which may be used for partisan purposes.
Obviously, because of the widespread conflict of interest, a quorum will be unable to be assembled. There is provision for the Minister to consider a written application from Council or the CEO to exempt Councillors from the conflict of interest obligations. (s80(1)(a) and (b)). The Minister must consider the public interest s80(1B)(b) before giving any exemption to any one or other group of Councillors.
In summary there are reasons set out in s76 of the LGA which prevent Council from making gifts of money to the MAV for purposes not related to the legal functioning of the MAV, and not related to the proper/legal function of Council for the (direct) benefit of the local community. Without express written permission of the Minister, any resolution to provide funds from the public purse for partisan referendum support cannot be put for want of a quorum.
For its part, the MAV (acting as banker) is unable to accept money “for a joint purpose by councils or a council and any other body” unless this body has been declared (as suitable) by the Governor in Council. (s17 of the Municipal Association Act 1907).
This issue has already gathered substantial momentum with funds firmly committed by a number of Councils. We expect the Minister to bring the matter to a halt – possibly by seeking an appropriate injunction in the Supreme Court of Victoria, or by immediately issuing a guideline determination in the matter. We ask that if this responsibility is not to be accepted by the Minister, we be advised within seven days of the date of this letter in order to arrange an appropriate course of action.
George Reynolds, Vice President.
The MAV is lobbying council’s to contributed to a “voluntary levy” to fund a campaign to convince ratepayers to vote YES in the Federal Government referendum. It is said this money will go to the ALGA for a national effort. RVI understands the MAV have currently (as at 15/6) been provided $725,223.00 of ratepayers funds without people approval, or approval of the Minister. Only some of the council’s have been conned to contribute.
RVI urges all ratepayers to vote NO … and Google www.realaussienews.com/site 3/ for more information on the referendum, councils and rate issues.
This referendum is another attempt to control Local Council’s in the long run, and to open opportunity for federal funds to support ailing electorates – and, at the right time, prop up their federal votes! It also opens the door to councils being seen as “government” when they are not.
So, what can be done to stop this massive misuse of public money from local councils? RVI is looking to use a court injunction to ensure the improper use of public funds is stopped.
We need funds to fight this grab for power and the improper use of public funds. Donations can be made to RVI via debit payment direct to our bank account:
Whittlesea Branch, address to Ratepayers Victoria Inc., account No. 063855 10127765, or, by cheque or money order and post to the RVI secretary. Unit 8/1248 North Road, Oakleigh South, 3167.
In December 2012, MRI commenced its community governance activities. Today, we would like to share our successful milestones:
- Implementation of a report card program for evaluating and reporting the behavioural and decision making performance of Councillors and Mayor’s meeting control competence during Council meetings – seehttp://monashratepayers.wordpress.com/governance/council-meeting-qs/, which has resulting in sustaining improvements since starting in Dec/Jan.
- Trialling a pilot for checking due diligence in Councillors’ reimbursement claims, policy and administration execution– see http://monashratepayers.wordpress.com/governance/councillors-reimbursements-reviews/
- Facilitated escalation of long standing community issues – see http://monashratepayers.wordpress.com/governance/issues-mgt/issues-registry/
- Contributing to Government inquiries in representing Monash ratepayers’ voice in government reforms, strategy planning and programs implementation matters – see http://monashratepayers.wordpress.com/governance/inquiry-submissions/ and http://monashratepayers.wordpress.com/governance/monash-have-your-say-inputs/
As a result of these short term achievements, the ultimate community benefits MRI has helped accomplished in Q1, 2013 are
- Since Feb 2013, Council meetings have become more civil and compliant to code of conduct expectations and showing ongoing gradual improvements in decision making quality and Mayor’s control of meeting;
- More significantly, Council has confirmed a back to basics budgeting resolve for sustaining a rate increase of 6% (as originally planned) for next financial year – a target MRI has consistently communicated publically.
For more information of what Monash Ratepayers are doing, visit their website on http://monashratepayers.wordpress.com/ and contact them to help you exercise democratic governance in your Council – http://monashratepayers.wordpress.com/contact-us/
Read more in
Choose one topic from the unit guide of the examples given in the assignment brief in the unit guide – ie This is
1. an assessment of Country attractiveness and entry strategy report OR only entry strategy
2. a review of the internationalisation of the organisation OR
3. a review of the local operations of the organisation and its relationship with its overseas parent and how it deals with international strategic issues such as decision-making, autonomy, communication and control, finance and marketing, hrm, production etc (remember this is all about international relationships NOT local operational issues).
4. Etc – relate to topics in Unit Guide
This chosen topic is the core theme of the case analysis and also influence how you write & organise the case story.
Try not to do 1 as almost the 2 classes are doing that.
Eugene Benson from Moonee Valley Weekly reports (26 Mar 2013):
FORMER Moonee Valley mayor and current Rosehill ward councillor Shirley Cornish will appear in the Broadmeadows Magistrates Court on April 4 to face a charge related to her actions while mayor in 2010.
Cr Cornish is the second Moonee Valley councillor to be charged by the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate after its investigation into allegedly improper payments made to the city’s former chief executive Rasiah Dev. Cr Cornish has been charged with one breach of section 76D of the Local Government Act 1989 for the alleged misuse of her position to obtain an advantage for Mr Dev.
It is alleged that as a consequence of the misuse of her position, Mr Dev gained an advantage of more than $13,600.
The charge specifically relates to an allegation that Cr Cornish signed a document with a council letterhead that endorsed a variation to Mr Dev’s contract. That variation is believed to be a 5 per cent wage increase resulting in a $13,600 gain for the former chief executive. Any variation to a chief executive’s payment is required to be brought before the entire council.
In December, fellow Moonee Valley councillor Paul Giuliano was found guilty by the Broadmeadows Magistrates Court on a similar charge relating to his time as mayor in 2009.
He was handed a $1000 fine, but was allowed to continue all normal duties as a Buckley ward councillor.
The Weekly understands Cr Cornish’s hearing may last for three days and include as many as 30 witnesses. Cr Cornish would not be drawn to comment on the charge but is expected to plea not guilty.
By choosing that plea she would leave herself open to paying legal fees if proven guilty.
Mr Dev left the council in April 2010 and is now Darebin Council’s chief executive. Darebin Council has been subject to its own external investigation since appointing Mr Dev.