Whittlesea council’s decision to appoint an acting chief executive while Simon Overland is on indefinite leave from the council will cost ratepayers close to $1 million per year, a councillor has claimed.
Mr Overland announced he was taking leave on November 20, citing concerns about his health and safety.
“The situation has been very difficult now for two years, but with recent changes on council, I now regrettably find my own health and safety significantly affected,” he said.
Speaking in State Parliament last week, Yan Yean MP Danielle Green described the council as a “toxic workplace”.
“I have heard that there has never been such a poor situation of bullying. I ask the City of Whittlesea councillors to have a good darn look at themselves,” she said.
Former Geelong council boss Kelvin Spiller was appointed as acting chief executive at a confidential council meeting on November 23.
Cr Tom Joseph said the decision to appoint Mr Spiller would cost ratepayers.
“We now have a situation where the ratepayers have to fork out close to $1 million a year for two CEOs,” he said.
“Why? Because of unacceptable behaviour by some councillors that has forced the CEO to go on leave.”
According to the council’s 2018-19 annual report, Mr Overland’s salary is between $390,000 and $399,999 per year.
Mayor Emilia Lisa Sterjova said Mr Spiller is being paid on a contract basis which is “commensurate with a local government CEO role and his experience”.
Cr Joseph said appointing a council director as acting chief executive would have cost ratepayers “substantially less”.
Traditionally, a council director is appointed in the role while Mr Overland in on leave. City transport and presentation director Helen Sui and former partnerships, planning and engagement director Liana Thompson have both assumed the role in the past when Mr Overland is on leave.
Cr Sterjova said councillors appointed a chief executive outside the organisation because Mr Spiller has “extensive experience” leading councils.
“Council believes he will provide certainty and create confidence amongst staff and the community,” she said.
Cr Joseph’s claim comes amid suggestions Mr Overland has made a complaint to WorkSafe.
Cr Lawrie Cox, who last week raised concerns about the council being an unsafe working environment, told Star Weekly it was his understanding Mr Overland had contacted WorkSafe.
Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek said it would be inappropriate for him to comment as the situation at the council was “under investigation”.