Wang feud: Sharp, Fidge to collide again

WANGARATTA Council’s chief executive Doug Sharp and Cr Julian Fidge are on another collision course with the appointment of a consultant to support senior management handle its governance crisis.

The consultant has been appointed for a two-month period under “emergency” conditions agreed to by the council at its most recent meeting.

The councillors said Mr Sharp could appoint a consultant if a situation was deemed to be sudden, urgent or requiring immediate action.

The council is dealing with a probity audit, Local Government Inspectorate inquiry and code of conduct complaints lodged against Cr Fidge by three other councillors.

The move to hire a consultant has angered Cr Fidge, who said he didn’t believe the governance issues were a large impost on the council’s management team.

“I don’t accept they need to go and hire an extra person to answer a couple of questions from an investigator,” he said yesterday.

“It is difficult to see how they could have an increased workload. They have a willingness to engage external consultants for little reason, in my opinion.”

Cr Fidge put the cost of the consultant at $50,000.

The consultant will also assist the council’s sustainability director Ray Park, whose portfolio includes governance issues.

The hiring of consultants flared at the council’s January meeting when Cr Fidge successfully led a move to strip senior management of the power to employ consultants, except in emergencies.

The push gained the support of mayor Rozi Parisotto to achieve a 4-3 vote.

The council last month laboured through 19 requests to engage consultants for fees ranging from $500 to $150,000.

The two most contentious requests, which were rejected on 4-3 votes, were hiring a consultant to design and provide a cost estimate for the saleyards upgrade and a consultant to provide advice on irrigation layouts for King George Gardens.

Cr Parisotto was briefed on the appointment of a consultant to assist Mr Sharp and Mr Park.

Council spokesman Andrew Chuck said the consultant would provide “high level executive support”.

“The purpose of the engagement is to provide relief in dealing with the various lines of investigation associated with governance, code of conduct and inspectorate matters,” he said.

“The sudden and unexpected workload increase at a time of preparation of the council plan and other business of council has necessitated this decision.”

Cr Julian Fidge.

Cr Julian Fidge.