Commissioners appointed to public inquiry into troubled council

By David Donaldson

Thursday May 16, 2019

The Victorian government has announced the commissioners and terms of reference for a commission of inquiry into the troubled South Gippsland Shire Council.

Former Supreme Court judge Frank Vincent will chair the commission.

He will be joined by audit expert John Watson, a former public servant with over 40 years experience at state and local level, and Julie Eisenbise, a former mayor and councillor at Manningham City Council between 1997 and 2005.

A state government-appointed monitor recently recommended the council be suspended and an administrator appointed. The government is still deciding whether to suspend the council, but CEO Tim Tamlin is being replaced on an acting basis by Bryan Sword.

Five councillors have quit in the space of six months, with some claiming the council suffered from bullying, harassment and dysfunction, reports the ABC.

The terms of reference will see the commission look into the behaviours of individual councillors, the process of hiring the acting CEO, and the efficiency and effectiveness of governance arrangements in delivering services to the community.

The Local Government Act provides the commissioners with broad ranging powers including summoning witnesses, requiring the production of documents and full access to the council and its documents.

The commissioners will determine how to conduct the inquiry, which will include some public proceedings, and will deliver a final report to Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek by May 31. The report will be tabled in parliament.

“The commission of inquiry will help ensure South Gippsland Shire returns to a position of stability so it can effectively govern and deliver for its ratepayers,” said Somyurek in the statement naming the commissioners.

The councillors released a joint statement in response.

“We are confident that the commission of inquiry will ensure proper process and an unbiased approach,” they stated.

“With the expertise of the chair and commissioners selected we have no doubt concerns will be looked into thoroughly.”

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