Speculation rife on tabling of MacPherson report

By Rob O'Brien

Speculation around the tabling of the MacPherson report into Burnside Council has continued in South Australia with reports indicating that councillors and council staff will be receiving a copy for right of reply.

The investigation is now entering the "natural justice period", where anyone named in the report will have two to three weeks to object to any of Mr MacPherson’s findings before the report is sent to Local Government Minister Gail Gago for public release.

The investigation into Burnside Council was launched in July last year following inquiries concluded by the Office of State and Local Government Relations (OSLGR) into complaints of misconduct and bullying.

Ken MacPherson was appointed by Minister Gago to conduct a thorough probe into allegations of bullying, harassment and undue influence at the council.

The investigation, which was initiated by the resignation of the council's chief executive Neil Jacobs, has taken a year to conclude. Over that period 72 people have been interviewed and three extensions have been granted by the State Government.

The report has also included 144 summonses and 80,000 pages of documentation. Investigators have trawled more than 5000 emails between council members.

The Adelaide Advertiser recently reported that two recommendations from the investigation refer specifically to the conduct of a councillor and two relate to the conduct of a council employee.

The newspaper also reported that there could be recommendations of criminal charges for breach of the Local Government Act.

Earlier this year Ms Gago detailed the 'natural justice' procedure – those named in the report would be offered an opportunity to respond to the findings before it was submitted to the State Government.

“Individuals have this opportunity to respond to the investigator’s findings before the report is presented to Government," she said. 

“How long this takes depends on the availability of individuals, but clearly it’s in everyone’s interests to complete this as expeditiously as possible.”

The SA Local Government Act does allow the State Government to sack a council and put it under administration if it is found to have breached the act.

Burnside is the first SA council in 19 years to face an independent investigation.

According to reports, anyone named in the report has until this Friday, August 13, to request a copy. 


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