SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council Mayor Don Hill has called into question the legitimacy of the Leongatha Business Association’s upcoming ‘Councillor crisis public meeting’.
Cr Hill, who said he will not be attending the Memorial Hall event – scheduled for 7pm this Thursday – claimed it was being staged by “elements” within the association.
”I believe it was organised a day after the papers came out, so they could not have endorsement from their group,” Cr Hill told The Mirror.
The claim has been rejected by LBA. Vice president Anthony Walls said only two committee members were absent on the night of the vote. Ten unanimously supported the plan to stage the event, Mr Walls said.
Meanwhile, Cr Hill has dismissed talks of a crisis at Council.
”A fake news-manufactured crisis perhaps is the only crisis going on,” he said.
”We live in a democracy. I fully support the right for The Starnewspaper and elements from the Chamber of Commerce to hold a political rally to campaign against the new direction this Council has embarked upon.
”Understanding that at the last council election the community voted in support of the two councillors promoting this progressive reform and chose to remove from office five of the six previous councillors holding views to keep things unchanged.”
Cr Hill said the Council was “working collaboratively towards this new direction.”
References to “progressive reform” are telling, since Cr Hill established a website with fellow councillor, Andrew McEwen called “Progressive Reform for South Gippsland”.
According to the website’s blurb progressive reform “is about favouring or advocating for progress, change, improvement, and reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are”.
Mr Walls said Cr Hill is ignoring the obvious.
“The Mayor is in denial. He got interviewed last week by Win News and just said, ‘There’s not a problem.’ You’ve got four councillors resign in four months. You’ve got the state government appointing a monitor. And you say there’s no problem. It’s just getting ridiculous,” he said.
“It’s getting to a stage where it’s laughable.”
From a business perspective, he believes the attention on Council’s problems is costing the region – with the state government bypassing local projects in favour of others elsewhere.
“We’re not getting state government funding. Council has money for the Bair Street redevelopment, but projects in other shires were given money instead. They’re not giving us money because we’re a basket case,” he said.
“All the money that it allocated is going other places. It affects the business community because if we’re not getting local works done, what happens then? The trades people, builders and everyone aren’t getting potential work.
“It affects everyone. We pay exorbitant rates, but what’s happened with our money?”
The meeting comes in the wake of the recent resignations of Cr Jim Fawcett and Cr Lorraine Brunt, both of whom were former mayors. Their departures, which will occur on April 1, bring the number of councillor who have quit in recent times to four. All have told similar stories of bullying by fellow councillors – though no one is publically naming names.