Moorabool council has hired an independent lawyer to sit in on its meetings to review councillors’ performance.
Experienced lawyer Terry Bramham, of Macquarie Local Government Lawyers, has been observing councillors at the past two meetings and will continue to do so until October.
Chief executive Rob Croxford said Mr Bramham was hired as part of a councillor support and assistance program and would be reporting on governance and procedures.
He denied Mr Bramham was hired to resolve conflict between councillors. Mr Croxford would not be drawn on how much it was costing the council to hire a lawyer but said “there is funding in our current budget to cover it”.
Details about Mr Bramham’s role were made public after a closed special council meeting last month.
In a report to the council, Mr Croxford stated that the councillor support program was introduced as a response to the significant workload and pressures councillors face in their roles.
At least half of the report outlining the support program, seen by Star Weekly, is dedicated to how councillors can resolve issues.
“It is important for the councillor team to work together for the benefit of the communities across the shire,” the report stated. “It is normal for tensions and disagreements to occur, however an understanding of team dynamics, different personalities, styles and team building is invaluable in delivering good governance.”
It stated that council’s local laws were complex and formal meeting procedures were sometimes difficult for councillors to follow.
“It is suggested that a short-term resource be appointed to advise and review the operation of council and committee meetings and assemblies with a view to improving governance process and outcomes.”
When Star Weekly questioned first-time east ward councillor Jarrod Bingham about the program he read a response from a statement stating that the council had hired the lawyer as a “good governance response to the workload”.
The Municipal Association of Victoria chose not to comment on Moorabool council’s decision as it was unaware of its particular circumstances.