THE report that ultimately led to the dismissal of Wangaratta Council has highlighted an inability to rectify entrenched conflicts between councillors.
Municipal inspector Peter Stephenson was sent to Wangaratta by Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell and his final report was tabled in the Victorian Parliament yesterday.
Mr Stephenson recommended the council be either suspended or sacked, with the latter option taken up.
A parliamentary bill to pave the way for the council’s dismissal went through the initial stages in both houses yesterday.
The council is on track to hold one more meeting before administrators take control.
Mr Stephenson said the council had failed to provide good governance.
“This is primarily due to a serious breakdown in working relationships between councillors and the administration, and an unwillingness by councillors to accept that their collective behaviour needs to change,” Mr Stephenson said.
“The conduct of a number of councillors is characterised by hostility and acrimonious behaviour, the denigration of staff and colleagues and a lack of mutual respect and goodwill,” he said.
Mr Stephenson also reported legal advice provided to the council suggested it adopt a series of resolutions aimed to improve workplace safety, but it had not been acted upon.
“The council has been given ample advice, time and opportunity to rectify its deficiencies,” he said.
“A break in electoral representation will send a clear message that a continuing and serious failure to provide good governance is unacceptable.”
Mr Stephenson’s report revealed the payout to former chief executive officer Doug Sharp and other senior staffers was about $820,000, not $1 million as previously estimated.
The municipal inspector met mayor Rozi Parisotto regularly since arriving in Wangaratta in May, and with each councillor at least once.
He also met a delegation of nine former mayors and councillors and representatives from Wangaratta Health, North East Water, Wangaratta RSL and Wangaratta Unlimited.
In an earlier report to the minister, Mr Stephenson said Cr Tammy Atkins and Cr Don Joyce were regularly targeted with aggressive and intimidatory behaviour.
Projects affected by the conflicts include Jazz Festival sponsorship and a failed bid to host the Ovens and Murray Football League grand final.