A Melbourne council that spent half a million dollars on legal disputes thanks to its revolving door of CEOs will be sacked by the state government.
Local government minister Adem Somyurek says he is dismissing Whittlesea City Council after a municipal monitor found an“irretrievable collapse” of governance at the council.
Monitor Yehudi Blacher says in his report to parliament that “deep divides” and personality conflicts within council had left it dysfunctional with five CEOs in five years – including former police chief Simon Overland – and a $500,000 legal bill.
Mr Blacher also found the behaviour of councillors was not in keeping with their code of conduct and had caused significant harm to Council’s administration and reputation, Mr Somyurek said.
The report was being tabled in parliament on Tuesday.
“The Monitor found Councillors have stopped acting in the best interests of the City of Whittlesea and recommended its immediate dismissal and replacement with Administrators. We accept the recommendations,” the minister said in a statement.
“Residents and ratepayers have every right to be deeply disappointed in their Council.”
Administrators will be appointed until at least the 2024 general elections.
The Municipal Association of Victoria said the findings were concerning and didn’t represent local government in the state.
“The behaviours identified by the monitor at Whittlesea are not representative of our local government sector,” MAV president Coral Ross said.
“Now the work begins to restore public confidence in the council, so that the Whittlesea community can enjoy local services, programs and infrastructure and return to a democratically elected local council in 2024.”
Mr Blacher, a former Secretary of the Victorian Department of Planning and former deputy secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, was appointed last year to examine governance and operations Council following an investigation by the local government watchdog.
It came after what Mr Somyurek then described as three years of “instability in senior management” at Council, including the sacking of Mr Overland by councillors on December 10.
Mr Overland is a former Victorian Chief Police Commissioner who gave evidence in the Lawyer X Royal Commission.
The Local Government Inspectorate, which last December raised concerns about the council with the government, has confirmed it is investigating a number of matters relating to Whittlesea but said it could not provide information until it had finalised its report.
The dismissal of Whittlesea comes just four weeks after Mr Somyurek sacked Casey Council, in Melbourne’s south-east, as reported by Government News.
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