Shellharbour Council in a nutshell

The Shellharbour Council consistently failed to abide by local government regulations and should be sacked, a special government inquiry was told.

According to the reports by the ABC and the Illawarra Mercury, counsel assisting the commission Daniel Meltz has presented a number of reasons for the council to be sacked, including failures with its code of conduct committee and biased handling of tenders and development applications.

The Department of Local Government specifies a code of conduct committee should consist of three members, including one external member, to examine complaints lodged against councillors. Mr Meltz said the Shellharbour committee had five members with three external consultants, which came at a considerable price.

The public inquiry also found councillors failed to listen to the advice of staff on some development proposals, such as the controversial Dunmore equestrian centre plan.
Mr Meltz added some staff reported on councillors’ intimidatory tactics and their inability to draft policy due to continued leaks.

Commissioner Richard Colley was told that there were three options, which were to take no action, to sack the councillors but permit the local government elections in September to go ahead, or to dismiss the council and appoint an administer for the next for years.

Opting for the last action, Mr Meltz said there was enough evidence to sack the council and it also had failed to implement recommendations made by a government review in 2005.

Amidst the deteriorating situation, Mayor and councillors Barry Bird, Helen Gillett and Christine Jeffreys all submitted letters to the department in October. Former local government minister Ernie Page visited the council to warn its sacking was imminent without making significant adjustments.

Following the letter penned by general manager Brian Weir stressing there had been no improvement, local government minister Paul Lynch announced the inquiry in April.

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