The state government has refused Whittlesea council’s request for a municipal monitor to be appointed to oversee the council.
In a letter to council chief executive Simon Overland, seen by Star Weekly, Local Government Minister Marlene Kairouz said she was not convinced a monitor was needed.
“I am not satisfied that there is a serious risk of governance failure by the council at this time to warrant the appointment of a monitor,” the letter stated.
“As the council notes, council business continues to progress normally and it is able to implement council policies and decisions … I will not be appointing a monitor to the council at this time.”
The council voted on May 8 to ask the government for a monitor for six months to address concerns that the council was dysfunctional.
Councillors requested that a monitor report on the constant interjections from councillors at meetings and the failure of individual councillors to follow the mayor’s directions and withdraw inappropriate comments. Advice on how governance could be improved was also sought.
Three councillors – Ricky Kirkham, Caz Monteleone and Alahna Desiato – led the push for a monitor, which was expected to cost ratepayers $30,000 a month.
In the letter to Mr Overland, Ms Kairouz stated that intervention in a council by the government is a “very serious matter” and is reserved for circumstances where there was substantial risk of serious governance failure by a council, and where a council has already made every attempt to address those risks”.
She said there was a range of mechanisms available to the council to address inappropriate behaviour by councillors, including the councillor code of conduct and the council’s meeting procedure local law.
“It is my preference that councils make every effort to resolve councillor behavioural issues through these mechanisms before seeking state government intervention,” Ms Kairouz said.
“Should a significant risk to good governance at the council arise in the future, after the council has attempted to address the risk, I would consider what options are available to assist the council to ensure it is meeting the standards of governance expected by its community.”
Mayor Kris Pavlidis said Ms Kairouz’s decision demonstrated that the council was not dysfunctional.
“This is a vote of confidence in the council,” she said. “Councillors who do bother to turn up, do fulfill their duties and attend council meetings are getting on with business.”
Cr Tom Joseph said the decision proved it was up to his colleagues to improve their behaviour.
“The minister has decided that using ratepayers’ funds to force change in the behaviour of a couple of councillors is unwarranted,” he said.