Red ‘letterhead’ day for Fidge

FORMER Wangaratta councillor Julian Fidge is claiming a belated victory with the city’s next publicly elected representatives set to be provided with official personalised letterheads.

Administrators, who replaced Dr Fidge and six other councillors after they were sacked last year, will tonight sit in judgment of a councillor support and civic expense reimbursement policy.

The provision of personalised letterheads to conduct council business is contained in the policy subject to seven conditions.

They include correspondence not being contrary to an adopted council policy or not divulging sensitive and confidential “corporate information”.

Access to the council letterhead became one of the first examples of a disconnect between Dr Fidge and senior management led by former chief executive Doug Sharp.

Dr Fidge claimed Mr Sharp was attempting to gag him.

The former councillor subsequently requested a probity audit into Mr Sharp’s actions.

The audit was carried out by Bill Scales, who later filed another report to Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell, which convinced her to sack the council.

Mr Scales’ report on the letterhead saga was considered by council and it deemed the complaint by Dr Fidge to be “unproven”.

It was also agreed by the council to develop a policy clarifying whether or not a letterhead was to be provided.

The policy will take effect after the 2016 local government elections, which Dr Fidge hasn’t ruled out contesting.

“The issuing of personalised letterheads to councillors reflects well on the new administration,” Dr Fidge said.

“It is encouraging and reassuring the new chief executive and directors feel that councillors have a more significant role to play in Wangaratta than previously allowed by council staff.

“It is a vindication for me personally and it’s a victory for commonsense and good communication.”

Other conditions are correspondence should not purport to be on behalf of the council and a clear indication the views expressed are those of an individual councillor and not the council.

But Dr Fidge disagrees with a condition councillors must not provide advice.

“Nearly every letter I wrote on my personalised council letterhead advised the constituent to contact a particular department or officer at council or the procedure for doing something with council,” he said.

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