THE crisis enveloping Wangaratta Council has broken out on another front.
Cr Julian Fidge is the subject of complaints from three of his colleagues, Don Joyce, Tammy Atkins and Lisa McInerney. They have sent their complaints to the Victorian Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell.
A mediation process involving the warring parties was rolled out last week, involving mayor Rozi Parisotto and council director Ray Park.
It was held at the end of a regular councillor briefing session and lasted only 10 minutes.
In a separate development, the Municipal Association of Victoria has appointed a councillor conduct panel at Wangaratta to deal with deep divisions emerging between Cr Fidge and other councillors and senior staff, including chief executive Doug Sharp.
The latest action adds to the instigation of a probity audit at the request of Cr Fidge and confirmation Wangaratta Council will be the subject of a Local Government Inspectorate inquiry.
The complaints lodged about Cr Fidge include unauthorised use of council letterhead, that he obstructed council operations by moving a motion council decide on the engagement of consultants and alleged misuse of council funds by requesting a probity audit.
“I am finding it all quite offensive,” Cr Fidge said.
The need to instigate a councillor conduct panel is outlined in the council’s code of conduct adopted by the council in 2009.
But Cr Fidge is disputing that the complaints should be addressed by a panel if they have already reached the minister.
The code of conduct states: “If the dispute relates to an apparent offence under the Local Government Act it should be referred to the Minister for Local Government and not the subject of an application to a Councillor Conduct Panel.”
The present council, elected in October, has not revised or updated the document.
Wangaratta councillors closed ranks upon the news it will be the subject of an inquiry.
Cr Parisotto again could not be contacted.
A department spokesman said the inspectorate is responsible for applying the Local Government Act 1989 and any actions or behaviours of council or councillors that breach the Act will be the subject of investigation and appropriate action.
Editorial — page 24