Wodonga Council will not be sending representatives to a town hall meeting discussing potential legal action against them for their use of the waste services levy.
Shine Lawyers and Wangaratta lawyer John Suta teamed up to propose the action, which has gained initial funding from a backer, after Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass found Wodonga Council was ‘wrong’ to collect $18 million in extra revenue from its waste management levy, to fund other services.
A council spokeswoman said whether the mayor, senior staff, legal or council representatives attend Wednesday night’s meeting, was a decision for each individual.
She would not answer questions on whether council had insurance to cover the potential class action.
Shine Lawyers were unable to provide details on how many people had registered to, or were predicted to, attend Albury Entertainment Centre, only saying registrations were increasing.
Senior lawyer Tristan Gaven said there would be both formal and informal parts of the meeting to allow residents to share their stories publicly and also speak directly to lawyers.
“The purpose of the information session is to provide ratepayers with information about their legal rights in relation to the overcharging by council,” he said.
“As we are in the preliminary stages of our investigation we would like to gauge community interest in the action as well as to hear ratepayers’ stories.”
Mr Suta said representatives from ratepayers associations from as far away as Melbourne and Mildura were trekking to the Border to attend the session, because they believe they might have been subjected to similar overcharges.
Mr Suta said in Wodonga there was little ambiguity, as the Ombudsman found council was wrong to use the waste levy charge on things beyond its intended scope and the practice in-part avoided increases to general rates.
He said the scope of the proposed legal action is from 2007 to 2018, with Shine stating about 40,000 were overcharged by council and could seek reimbursement through the class action.