It’s about trust, councillors told

MOIRA councillors have been read the riot act by Local Government Victoria executive director Nick Foa during his visit to the troubled shire on Monday.

He urged councillors to “respect and trust each other” to try to avoid a repeat of the trouble that led to the Wangaratta Council dismissal last September.

Councillors have been deeply divided over a probity audit proceeding with the issue remaining unresolved.

The council has taken legal advice that has questioned whether the audit can go ahead in its current form.

No rescission motion has been instigated on the unanimous decision of the council a month ago to call for tenders to carry out the audit.

Local Government Victoria released a statement yesterday after Mr Foa met councillors, acting chief executive officer Peter Bertolus and other senior officers.

Mr Foa declined to comment specifically on the probity audit.

The statement said he had reminded councillors of their obligations and responsibility to deliver good government for the benefit of their municipality.

“It was agreed that each councillor would take measures to address issues of conduct and governance that would restore order and instil confidence in the daily workings of council,” Mr Foa said.

“The way forward for Moira Shire is to focus on core business and for the councillors to work through the office of the chief executive officer so that due process is followed correctly and collective decision-making can prevail.

“It is critical that each councillor remembers their obligations under the oath of office they took when first sworn in as an elected representative of their community and (under) the Local Government Act.

“I also impressed upon councillors that it is essential they respect and trust each other, engage in collective decision-making and speak with one voice regardless of their individual opinions and views on matters before them.”

Mr Foa will brief Mr Bull on the details of the meeting.

The government will be acutely aware of the potential political fallout of another council being sacked in the same electorate in an election year.

Member for Murray Valley Tim McCurdy, a former Moira councillor, is a National Party colleague of former local government minister Jeanette Powell and her successor, Tim Bull.

Mrs Powell had initially been made aware of Moira’s rumblings in August when her office was contacted by former chief financial officer Adrian Pawar.

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