A Whittlesea councillor has called for former chief executive Simon Overland to be reinstated, saying the decision to terminate his contract had exposed the council to significant damage.
Cr Lawrie Cox said he had no doubt Mr Overland would take legal action against the council after it voted in secret on December 10 to terminate his contract.
Cr Cox said Mr Overland’s contract had been terminated without reason – as was the case when former chief executive Michael Wootten was axed by the council in March 2017.
Star Weekly understands Mr Overland will receive three months pay, with his dismissal set to cost ratepayers close to $100,000.
Mr Overland had been on indefinite leave from the council since November 20, citing concerns about his health and
“The council needs to rethink its position and reverse its decision to reinstate Simon Overland prior to any proceedings commencing,” Cr Cox said.
“It is my understanding that except in exceptional circumstances, you cannot terminate someone who has a WorkCover claim and that WorkCover claim is in process.”
Mr Overland is the third chief executive to be shown the door at Whittlesea council since April 2016.
The state government last week announced it would appoint a monitor to oversee the council in light of the instability in senior management over the past three years.
The monitor was appointed at the request of Chief Municipal Inspector David Wolf as part of a Local Government Inspectorate investigation into the council.
The monitor will assess a number of issues including councillor behaviour and the appointment of acting chief executive Kelvin Spiller on November 23.
Mr Spiller said the council would work with the monitor to ensure the best interests of the community are met.
He referred all questions about Mr Overland to mayor Emilia Lisa Sterjova.
Star Weekly can reveal that councillors have hired external communications consultants to assist with media inquiries relating to Mr Overland.
In a statement, Cr Sterjova said councillors had sought external legal assistance and communications consultants to “assist with any communications of this issue of public interest”.
Star Weekly understands ratepayers will be footing the bill for the legal and communications consultants.
Cr Sterjova did not answer questions about why an external communications agency had been hired when council has a communications team or the cost to ratepayers.
Cr Cox said the decision showed Cr Sterjova and other councillors did not trust council staff.
“We have a full communications team which they are ignoring and lawyers we retain,” he said.