WANGARATTA councillors are on notice about the legal fallout of any on-going personal criticism of colleagues or staff.
Mayor Rozi Parisotto went on the front foot yesterday by releasing decisions reached at a special meeting behind closed doors on Thursday night — decisions that were expected to remain confidential.
They warned councillors risked costly litigation if they publicly criticised other councillors or members of staff.
Council chief executive Doug Sharp has been under attack from Cr Julian Fidge since last year’s election campaign.
Mr Sharp raised his concerns about the attacks with Cr Parisotto before last month’s council meeting at Cheshunt.
He said in a memo, dated February 18, Cr Fidge’s criticism was damaging his health and professional reputation.
Cr Parisotto said the council had drawn a line in the sand on Thursday night.
She said while the council supported transparency and robust discussion, it did not sanction personal criticism of an individual councillor or staff member.
“A councillor does that now at their own risk,” she said.
The council will soon address the concerns raised in Mr Sharp’s memo.
Cr Parisotto said councillors with concerns about Mr Sharp’s performance should use the right channels, including his annual performance review.
Mr Sharp didn’t attend Thursday’s special meeting. Sustainability director Ray Park was the most senior staff member present.
Cr Parisotto said she would meet Victorian Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell to bring her up to speed on the governance crisis.
She said she would re-affirm the council’s position and assure Ms Powell it was business as usual.
“It is also very important the community is kept in the loop,” Cr Parisotto said.
“There has been a lot of criticism and, as a council, we need to act on that.”
Cr Fidge said last night he supported the decisions reached at the meeting.
“I will be careful what I say to the media and how I say it,” he said.
“I think the council has recognised we have a right to speak to the media.
“But I am sure I haven’t said anything that is not in the public interest or not true.”