Council’s brochure may have broken poll rules

A SCRUTINEER has called for an investigation into last month’s council election after a glossy newsletter celebrating the Alpine Council’s achievements was sent to homes during the campaign.

Ray Dixon yesterday said the brochure was a public relations exercise selling, by default, the achievements of the existing councillors.

The final seat went to one of those councillors, former mayor Daryl Pearce, by a handful of votes, over Myrtleford’s Jeremy Smith.

Mr Dixon has lodged this complaint and others with the Municipal Electoral Tribunal.

“Alpine Views ‘publicises the achievements of the elected council and clearly supports the retention of existing councillors at the election,” he said.

Mr Dixon acted as scrutineer at the count for Mario Vaccaro and was the only scrutineer present for a recount the following day.

Mr Vaccaro is no stranger to the tribunal, challenging the non-inclusion of 305 late votes from Myrtleford and Mount Beauty in the 2008 election in the belief that if they had been counted he would have been elected.

He lost but the Victorian Electoral Commission had ballot boxes at Myrtleford and Mount Beauty last month to avoid a challenge.

Mr Dixon said a similar case at Latrobe Council, in which a councillor was seen as a supporter of an initiative in a newsletter ahead of the 2008 poll, was found to be in breach of the act and that had set the precedent.

No councillor is referred to or features in pictures in Alpine newsletter.

“Alpine Views is not a critical or essential document of council and is clearly more of a public relations exercise designed to assure the community that the elected council is doing a good job,” Mr Dixon said.

“It could have been delayed so that it arrived outside the election period without limiting the council’s function.

“Alpine Views clearly had the potential to influence voters intentions in favour of existing councillors and, indeed, may well have influenced the result, given that the last vacancy was filled by a councillor seeking re-election and by a margin of just three votes over a candidate who was not an existing councillor.”

Mr Dixon did not wish to elaborate on other complaints he had submitted.