Hume council is facing a bill of up to $40,000 from the Victorian government Solicitor’s Office for the prosecution of five residents who failed to vote in the 2016 council election.
In a letter to Special Minister of State Gavin Jennings, Hume council chief executive Domenic Isola said the council considered the charges to be excessive.
Mr Isola said that the council had been advised by the Victorian Electoral Commission that it would cost between $3000 to $8000 to prosecute each of the five cases. The cases will be taken to court by the Solicitor’s Office on behalf of the Victorian Electoral Commission.
Prior to 2015, councils prosecuted their own failure to vote cases.
In the letter, Mr Isola said the council conducts its own prosecutions for a range of infringement matters, with internal expenses generally not exceeding $300. He said the use of an external legal firm cost $700.
He said that prior to 2015, the council prosecuted residents for failing to vote for considerably less than the Solicitor’s Office.
“While the council recognises the importance of enforcement of these matters through the courts, it views these costs by the VGSO to be excessive beyond what could be considered fair or reasonable, considering the maximum penalty for an offence of this nature is one penalty unit ($158.56),” he said.
“The prosecution expenses are in excess of what the courts would award as a costs order in the case of successful prosecution.
“This would leave council considerably out of pocket for these prosecutions even if they are successful.”
Victorian Electoral Commission communication and engagement director Sue Lang said the cases involved significant work from the commission and Solicitor’s Office.
“If the matter progresses, it can involve up to three court appearances by the VGSO,” she said.
Ms Lang disputed that the fives cases would leave the council “considerably out of pocket”, adding that the amount the council received from almost 15,000 failure-to-vote infringements would “vastly” outweigh the likely prosecution costs.