Moira Council faces conduct inquiry

MOIRA Council is under intense scrutiny from Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell after she summoned mayor Peter Mansfield to a “please explain” meeting at her Melbourne offices yesterday.

Cr Mansfield and acting chief executive Peter Bertolus met the minister to “respond to and resolve concerns” about the council’s ability to provide good governance.

The minister, who is retiring from politics at the November election, issued a brief statement after the meeting late yesterday.

“The mayor responded to a number of issues I raised with him and has asked for assistance from my department,” she said.

“As a result, my executive director of Local Government Victoria will be shortly visiting the council to provide advice on appropriate councillor conduct and governance matters.”

Nick Foa, the government-appointed executive director headed for Moira, is the minister who was dispatched to Wangaratta when she dismissed that council last September.

One of the minister’s reasons for sacking Wangaratta Council was failing to provide good governance and Moira has been placed on notice after a turbulent 12-month period which included the dismissal of chief executive Gary Arnold and a high turnover of staff.

The council is close to appointing a replacement for Mr Arnold, who has joined Kingborough Council in Tasmania.

Moira councillors had decided to advertise Mr Arnold’s role as he neared the end of his contract.

A potential chief executive replacement, Paul Squires, departed Moira in unexplained circumstances prior to Mr Arnold leaving.

Mrs Powell was told of the problems by former chief financial officer Adrian Pawar last August.

He told the minister: “All of my attempts over the past six months to steer the council into financial viability have fallen on deaf ears and I have been under so much stress and duress that I am now having suicidal thoughts.

“I urge you to please intervene before the financial and work environment situation worsens.”

The council recently bungled the appointment of an independent probity auditor by failing to call for tenders as required under the Local Government Act.

It had earlier announced Rob Salisbury & Associates would be paid $60,000 to carry out the audit.

Cr Mansfield refused to comment last night.

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