When is enough enough
>Council corruption and inappropriate behaviour
1 Brimbank City Council
The Australian reported on 15 September 2009 the notorious ALP-controlled Brimbank Council has been dismissed by the state government after a new report found ongoing evidence of misconduct among its Labor-aligned councillors.
The inspector appointed to oversee the council following a damning Ombudsman’s report, Bill Scales, found councillors had mixed their personal business interests with council activities, leaked confidential information and improperly approached council staff. He also found the St Alban’s branch of the ALP – loyal to local numbers man and MP George Seitz – attempted to influence the council to reject a proposed site for its new headquarters.
The then Local Government Minister Richard Wynne said he would suspend the council and then introduced laws allowing them to be replaced by an administrator until new local government elections are held in three years’ time.
2. Wangaratta City Council
The Age reported on 18 September 2013 that The ‘‘dysfunctional’’ Wangaratta City Council will be sacked by the Napthine government because of rampant bullying and intimidating behaviour towards staff and councillors and waste of ratepayers funds.
Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell will introduce legislation to formally dismiss the Rural City of Wangaratta Council on Wednesday, which will receive bipartisan support.
3. Wyndham City Council
News.com.au reported on 27 November 2015 the call by Victorian MP Bernie Finn who told parliament Wyndham Council should be sacked because the bullying between Wyndham councillors behind closed doors has become so bad that one MP has called on the government to sack the lot of them.
But Wyndham Council chief executive, Kelly Grigsby, said the council took seriously its obligations to provide a healthy workplace and to protect councillors from bullying and harassment.
“Where there are issues relating to bullying or inappropriate conduct between councillors, these are managed by the Councillor Code of Conduct,” she said. “Councillors can lodge a complaint via the code to address alleged contraventions.
“Currently, the organisation is investigating matters relating to behaviour that is not in-keeping with the standards outlined in the code. “Given that matters are unresolved, it would be inappropriate to comment on specific details.”
She made clear there were no concerns regarding the governance of the council.
History proves the council is no stranger to the odd scandal.
4. Geelong City Council
The ABC News reported on 14 April 2016 that the Geelong City Council was officially sacked in the wake of a report that laid bare allegations of widespread bullying and dysfunction. Councillors, including high-profile Mayor Darryn Lyons, were removed from power after the Victorian Upper House passed a bill to dismiss the entire council.
5. Councillors failing to sign code the new code of conduct laws
The ABC reported on 15 August 2017 that more than 100 Victorian councillors to be sacked over code of conduct laws.
The Victorian Parliament passed laws in 2016 to clarify the behaviour standards required of councillors, and provide a better understanding of what was expected of their conduct in office. Councils had four months to renew their codes of conduct after the legislation came into effect on March 1, and individual councillors were also required to sign a form pledging to abide by the laws.
But the Local Government Inspectorate has ruled 107 councillors across 21 municipalities have failed to comply with those requirements before the set deadline. Whole councils in 13 municipalities, including Ballarat, Frankston, Central Goldfields and Greater Shepparton have been told they will be disqualified as a result. Individual councillors from another eight municipalities, including the City of Monash, the City of Moreland, Bendigo and the Southern Grampians Shire will also be sacked for failing to sign up to the new code.
6. Central Goldfields Shire Council
The Age reported on 23 August 2017 that the state government has sacked a central Victorian council over “extensive and disturbing” financial and governance failures, which follows the charging of its CEO last month.
The Andrews government introduced an emergency bill into parliament on Wednesday to dismiss the embattled Central Goldfields Shire Council and appoint administrators to run the shire until council elections are held in October 2020.
7. Frankston City Council.
The Frankston News reported on 10 September 2017 that the state government has stepped in to scrutinise Frankston Council with the appointment of a monitor to oversee council’s operations.
The government intervention comes after the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate highlighted concerns about governance at council.
The state council’s watchdog noted council public meetings have dragged on over several evenings this year, a meeting was cancelled due to a boycott by some councillors and there are also concerns about council spending not listed in council’s official budget.
Labor Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins announced on Sunday (10 September) she had decided to appoint a monitor to oversee council at the recommendation of the inspectorate.
Prosecutions of Councillors by the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate
The Inspectorate’s website shows that over the last 9 years there have been approximately 60 prosecutions. Of these 37 were candidates for council elections who failed to declare campaign donations or failed to provide correct candidate information. Councillors comprised about 18 of the remainder of the prosecutions and one related to a council officer. There appears to be an imbalance between prosecutions of council officers compared to councillors.
1. Protecting Integrity: investigation into the 2016 Wyndham City Council
During the council election period in 2016, the Inspectorate received several reports of concerning actions of candidates who nominated for election to Wyndham City Council. The most concerning reports related to allegations of bribery, unlawful nomination and deceptive conduct in the nomination process.
The Inspectorate, in the course of its investigations, found additional anomalies and determined it is in the public interest to broaden the scope of its investigations. The investigation did highlight three key themes which present as opportunities for improvement the process and perceptions of candidates. These were:
– ease of candidates to nominate,
– lack of understanding of the councillor role, and
– transparency of alignment by candidates.
2. Central Goldfields Shire Council investigation
In September 2016, the Inspectorate received allegations relating to activities at the Central Goldfields Shire Council and specifically in relation to the Chief Executive Officer. Those matters have been the subject of a thorough investigation and have since resulted in a criminal prosecution that is currently before the courts.
3. Councillor and officer cases prosecuted
(i) 2016- 2018
No councillors were prosecuted. Many of the cases in early 2018 relate to electoral candidates allegedly failing to submit a campaign donation return. (To comply with section 62 of the Local Government Act 1989, candidates must submit a campaign donation return when they receive any gifts or donations over $500, regardless of whether or not they are elected. Failing to do so can carry heavy court-imposed fines (up to a maximum 60 penalty units).
Chief Executive Officer of Central Goldfields Shire was charged in 2016
Cr Chris Smith of Colac Otway Shire Council pleaded not guilty to seven charges of conflict of interest and one charge of failure to submit an ordinary return under section 79 and 80A of the Local Government Act. All charges were dismissed.
Cr Ian Robertson of Central Goldfields Shire Council pleaded guilty to the charge under section 79 of the Local Government Act for failing to declare a conflict of interest. Cr Robertson was charged with allegedly voting on the 2012/13 Budget when he would have been aware of a potential conflict of interest related to his previous court costs being covered in a budget allocation. Cr Robertson pleaded guilty to the charge. Case proven with no conviction recorded and no fine imposed.
Cr Graeme Pittock of Mornington Peninsula Shire Council was charged with failing to declare a conflict of interest in three council meetings. Cr Pittock was found guilty and ordered to pay $4,000 and prosecution costs. No conviction was recorded.
Milvan Muto a former Greater Shepparton City Councillor was found guilty of perverting the course of justice in the County Court and sentenced to eight month’s imprisonment. Prior to the matter appearing before the County Court, Councillor Muto was disqualified from serving as a councillor for four years by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for gross misconduct. Councillor Muto then appealed the VCAT decision to the Supreme Court which dismissed Mr Muto’s application to appeal the VCAT decision as there was insufficient grounds.
Mike Tyler of Casey City Council was charged with two breaches of the Local Government Act 1989 for allegedly failing to disclose a conflict of interest to the mayor in writing and to notify the council of the conflict of interest at the earliest possible ordinary council meeting. Mr Tyler received a 12 month good behaviour bond without conviction and was ordered to pay $1000 to a charity and $9000 in costs.
Cr Shirley Cornish of Moonee Valley City Council pleaded guilty to charge of misuse of position and received 12 month Good Behaviour Bond and ordered to pay $8000 to the Local Government Inspectorate for by approving unauthorised payments and contract variations to former CEO. This was also subject to an investigation by Victoria Police.
Cr Paul Giuliano of Moonee Valley City Council pleaded guilty to charge of misuse of position by approving unauthorised payments and contract variations to former CEO and received a 12 month Good Behaviour Bond and ordered to pay $1,000 to Court Fund and $5,000 costs. This was also subject to an investigation by Victoria Police.
Cr Ian Robertson of Central Goldfields Shire Council was found guilty of two counts of conflict of interest. Based on evidence of good character and community service, the Magistrate did not record a conviction against Councillor Robertson who was placed on a 12 month good behaviour bond, ordered to pay a $4,000 donation to Maryborough Hospital, and pay the prosecution costs of $20,000. The breaches related to his lobbying and support for a significant road upgrade and paving project that effectively serviced his rural property.
Milvan Muto of Greater Shepparton City Council was required to take a mandatory leave of absence (suspension) from the role of councillor until a criminal charge of Blackmail was determined. In separate proceedings at VCAT the Inspectorate also sought to have a finding of Gross Misconduct made against Mr Muto. The criminal Blackmail charges related to witnesses in this separate matter.
Cr Belinda Clarkson of Nillumbik Shire was charged with two counts of breaching the conflict of interest over failing to declare a conflict and leave the meetings where she was the subject of the matter before council. The matter was dealt with by way of a contested hearing at the Magistrates Court where the Magistrate agreed there was a case to answer but, based on a legal interpretation, ultimately found in favour of Councillor Clarkson and the charges were dismissed.
Cr Andrea Marian of Ararat Rural City Council pleaded guilty to three Conflict of Interest charges with the more serious charge of misuse of position withdrawn. The charges resulted from Cr Marian making submissions on behalf of clients from her private business in matters that were before council Cr Marian was fined an aggregate of $10,000, to pay prosecution costs and was disqualified from nominating or acting as a councillor for 7 years.
Cr Lisa Price of City Council was found guilty on two counts of failing to declare interest and disqualified was from acting as a councillor for seven years and fined $9000 plus costs. Cr Price appealed the decision and the sentence was reduced to a 12 month good behaviour bond. No conviction was recorded and Cr Price was allowed to continue to act as a councillor.
Unnamed Councillor of Greater Shepparton councillor admitted guilt to failing to declare a conflict of interest and then voted on the endorsement of a new member of the council’s audit committee at the July 2010 ordinary council meeting however, the member was listed on campaign donation returns as a donor to the councillor’s election campaign fund. The councillor acknowledged the conflict of interest and the matter was resolved through the Criminal Justice Diversion Program without conviction and a fine of $500 payable to the Shepparton Hospital oncology ward.
Cr Tas Athanasopoulos of Stonnington City Council. It was alleged that Cr Athanasopoulos was ineligible to stand for re-election in 2008 because he did not hold a valid entitlement to be enrolled as a voter in the City of Stonnington. Justice Hargrave found in favour of Cr Athanasopoulos who was permitted to continue as a councillor.
Cr Susan Nichols of Mildura Rural City Council pleaded guilty for failing to disclose on return documents her position as councillor for Wentworth Shire Council in NSW. No conviction was recorded and was placed on a 6 month good behaviour bond without conviction.
Cr Mark Eckel of Mildura Rural City Council pleaded guilty for failing to disclose that he was Vice President of Sunraysia Community Radio Association on return documents. Cr Eckel also worked as a paid radio announcer for the Association. No conviction was recorded, ordered to pay $3,000 in fines and costs and placed on a 6 month good behaviour bond without conviction.
Cr David Saunderson of City of Greater Geelong Council was found guilty and convicted of failing to declare a conflict of interest. Cr Saunderson voted on a matter involving supermarket developer Lascorp which had donated to his 2004 election campaign. He did not declare the interest. He was disqualified from acting as a councillor for seven years and ordered to pay $18,000 in fines and costs.
Cr Cameron Granger of City of Greater Geelong Council was found guilty of failing to declare a conflict of interest. Cr Granger voted in favour of a planning application from a developer who had donated to his 2008 election campaign. He did not declare the interest Guilty without conviction and ordered to pay $4,000 in fines and costs.
Monash Council 2018
I had the displeasure of watching the 31st July Council meeting Item 6-10 the Glen Waverley Library facilities.
Motion by Cr Lynnette Saloumi was to consider future use of the site and to consider cost savings .
What a circus that was.
The following ‘Circus’ that followed was a disgrace. Cr Lake proposed an amendment to the motion which resulted in “her entire motion (all 9 clauses)being removed by Cr Lake’s amendment”
The Mayor Cr Klisaris and his colleagues supported Cr Lake’s amendment.
Cr Saloumi’s motion was only to consider the future use of the site.
If ever there was a case for the Local government Minister to step in and correct a breach of Council procedure this would
be the worst I have ever witnessed.
President Ratepayers Victoria Inc
Mystery over $17ml by Boroondara council where has all the money gone ????