Week of reckoning for shire council, CEO

THIS week looks like being one of reckoning for the beleaguered South Gippsland Shire Council, as it seeks to appoint an acting chief executive officer, and to meet Victorian Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek’s submission deadline.

Today, Wednesday May 8, the shire council is conducting a special meeting after considering a second round of applications, if any, for the job of acting chief executive officer, to serve for a 12-month term from June 25, 2019.

It is understood that applications are being canvassed both externally and from among the shire’s staff, following the council’s CEO Employment and Remuneration Committee’s rejection of current CEO Tim Tamlin’s bid for the temporary position last week.

Mr Tamlin has served as CEO for almost 10 years, with his contract due to expire on June 24, 2019.

It is expected that the successful acting CEO applicant may be announced at Wednesday’s special meeting.

Tomorrow, Thursday May 9, is the recently-extended closing date for the council’s response to Mr Somyurek’s show-cause notice, issued after the Minister received the State Government-appointed South Gippsland Municipal Monitor Peter Stephenson’s final report in March 2019.

Originally the council was to submit its response to the Minister by Thursday May 2, however the council asked for and was granted a week’s extension.

In his Mayor’s Message published in this week’s edition of The Mirror, Cr Don Hill said, “the new current councillors are working very effectively together as is evident in the enormous number of hours put into preparing the Council response to the Minister.

“The final document is around 130 pages along and has been drafted to the highest standards.”

The council was asked to supply submissions about issues raised in the Monitor’s final report and the steps taken to address those issues.

Mr Stephenson began his observation of the shire council in June 2018, examining community concerns about the governance and performance of the council, which has faced a series of four councillor resignations amid accusations of bullying and questionable decision-making.

The Monitor’s appointment followed a recommendation from the Local Government Inspectorate, which undertook an investigation at the council to look at its meeting procedures, current policies and processes to manage conflicts of interest, and the management of confidential information.

In early April 2019 Mr Somyurek asked the council to state why it should not be suspended.

Mr Stephenson had recommended in his report that the council be suspended in accordance with section 219 of the Local Government Act 1989and that an administrator be appointed.

The Monitor also advised that at the end of the suspension the councillors be required to be given governance training.

The council was assessed against the eight pillars of the Framework for Good Governanceestablished by the Commission of Inquiry into the Greater Geelong Council. Mr Stephenson found that the South Gippsland council was performing poorly in its direction and leadership, culture and behaviour, and in decision-making.

Mr Stephenson also noted that the council had lost the support of a large section of the local community.

Both the Monitor’s report and the council’s response document are expected to be released publicly.

It is anticipated that Mr Somyurek will consider both the report and the council’s submission together, though any decision and therefore an announcement as to the council’s future is unlikely before the result of the federal election on Saturday May 18 2019 is known.

Thursday May 9 2019 is also Coastal Promontory Ward Cr Jeremy Rich’s final day in office, due to his resignation following his being charged with allegedly serious drug offences after a Victoria Police raid on his Walkerville property.

Cr Rich’s resignation has resulted in another open-to-the-public countback procedure to fill an extraordinary vacancy in Coastal Promontory Ward to be held in the council chambers at Leongatha on Monday May 27 at 10 am.

Conducted by the Victorian Electoral Commission, the vacancy will be filled by a countback of the vacating councillor’s votes from the 2016 South Gippsland Shire Council election.

VEC returning officer Charmaine Morel said, “the vacating councillor’s votes will be distributed to the remaining eligible unsuccessful candidates from the 2016 election, according to voters’ preferences,” she said.

“The candidate who gains more than 50 per cent of the countback votes will be elected.”

Former councillor Mohya Davies of Foster was a candidate for the ward at the 2016 election but has advised the VEC that she would, “not take up the position if it was offered … I do not believe that I could work effectively in this council.”Other candidates from the 2016 election include Frank Oostermeyer, Jill Wilson, Matthew Sherry, Jeanette Harding and Vincent Morfuni.