AN investigation into a Wangaratta councillor’s complaint against the city’s chief executive will get under way shortly.
In a first for Victoria an auditor has been appointed to oversee the investigation into councillor Julian Fidge’s claims he was being gagged.
He has claimed he could not perform his job properly because chief executive Doug Sharp failed to provide him with a council letterhead.
Dr Fidge called for a probity auditor to deal with his complaint, which is now expected to be resolved within weeks.
He claimed Mr Sharp was attempting to gag elected representatives.
The ability to appoint the probity auditor, Bill Scales, only came about last year after an amendment to the Local Government Act.
The change was made because, while a council chief executive could investigate a complaint about a staff member, there was no provision for claims against the chief executive himself.
Director of governance at Local Government Victoria Colin Morrison said Mr Scales was appointed late last month to oversee the investigation.
Mr Morrison said Bill Scales’ role was not to assess Dr Fidge’s complaint “about who did what or how it should be resolved”.
“He’s there to simply to ensure the way the council addresses the complaint, and the process it follows, is the proper process,” he said.
“We deliberately haven’t been involved in the exact nature or detail of the complaint, but essentially it relates to the complaint made by Dr Fidge in relation to the conduct of the chief executive officer.
“Bill will be working with the council and also whoever’s involved in the processes put in place to address this complaint.
“I understand they haven’t yet put those processes in place.”
Mr Morrison said the expectation was that the complaint “will be resolved or addressed as quickly as possible”.
Mr Scales has been a long-time senior public servant in Victoria, serving in such roles as secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
In 2009 he was appointed administrator of Brimbank Council in Melbourne’s west after it was sacked by the State Government.
Dr Fidge has recently described Wangaratta Council and its operations as dysfunctional.