Council set for sacking after scathing monitor report

By Shannon Jenkins

February 18, 2020

Fairy Dell, Wilson Botanic Park Berwick, City of Casey. Picture: City of Casey

The Victorian government is seeking to sack the council at the centre of an investigation by the state corruption watchdog.

The state government will introduce a bill to dismiss the Casey City Council on Tuesday, following a report from municipal monitor Laurinda Gardner.

Gardner was appointed to the role in November in light of allegations that council planning and property development decisions had been influenced by donations from Mornington developer John Woodman.

Gardner’s report found councillors had “failed to effectively and transparently manage conflicts of interest”, had “prioritised protecting their reputations ahead of the interests of the council”, according to a statement from Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek.

The councillors had also failed to hold each other to account for their conduct, and had “contributed to damaging the reputation of, and public confidence in, the council”.

READ MORE: ‘Sham’ deals and dodgy donations take focus in IBAC investigation

The bill would introduce stringent new governance, accountability and councillor conduct requirements, in a bid to give locals greater confidence in their local councils.

Gardner recommended the council be dismissed until after the local government elections in October 2020, which the government has accepted. The next eligible election for the council would take place in October 2024.

An interim administrator will be appointed to ensure the functions of the council continue once the bill receives Royal Assent.

Somyurek said sacking the council is a serious but essential measure to ensure residents get a council that “works in their interests”.

“Victorians expect and deserve the highest standards of governance and integrity from their local council – the monitor’s report has found clear evidence Casey has fallen short of those standards,” he said.

Earlier this month the council granted councillor Sam Aziz extended paid leave, despite mayor Susan Serey believing the public would see the move as “completely unacceptable”.

Aziz left Australia late last year, before the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission began its public hearings. IBAC heard Aziz had received $900,000 from Woodman.

Serey said the councillor could have taken legal action against the council if it had rejected his application, due to a provision in the Local Government Act.

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