WODONGA Council has dropped a Melbourne Cup day bombshell with the resignation of chief executive Patience Harrington.
The council confirmed her departure after seven years late on Tuesday and following a testing year with the damning Ombudsman’s report which revealed council had reaped an extra $18 million from ratepayers in a 10-year period to 2015-16.
A media release issued at 4.30pm said Ms Harrington had notified mayor Anna Speedie and councillors of her decision to resign the previous day.
Ratepayers were kept in the dark for 24 hours.
She will finish up in the role in January with present directors Leon Schultz, Deb Mudra and Narelle Klein among the internal contenders to replace her.
In a letter to the community, Ms Harrington said: “I have always had the ambition of living and working overseas and now the opportunity to be in Europe in the New Year has been realised.
“I am so proud of this organisation and its people who have kept the wheels turning, who are committed and well-prepared to work with both the exciting and the difficult projects and the unexpected, who remain loyal to what we are here to do and always put in over and above what is expected.”
Cr Speedie, who is up for re-election as mayor at the end of the month, said Ms Harrington had led the city through historic changes.
“Patience leaves an amazing legacy, having guided the city through the transformation of our CBD, improvements across all our neighbourhoods, and leaves at a time when Wodonga is really thriving,” Cr Speedie said.
“Having been with the council for more than 17 years, she leaves the organisation in a strong position having fostered a culture of inclusiveness and innovation that has seen the council aim high and achieve great things.”
The breakthrough in establishing the rail hub at Logic was also achieved in Ms Harrington’s tenure as was luring the XLam timber laminate mill.
“As a past employee at the council I saw a decline in the moral fibre and integrity at council, particularly at senior management level and provided documentation and statements that resulted in the Ombudsman's report,” he said.
“The overcharging period occurred over the full term of Ms Harrington’s appointment as CEO and also as the director of community services, a period of close to 10 years.
“Senior management and council knowingly approved budgets that overcharged each ratepayer over $1000 for waste services that they did not receive.”
Ms Harrington became the city’s first female chief executive in 2012 when she scored a promotion from director of community development.
“I leave at an exciting time for our city and I’m proud to have led an organisation filled with people who are dedicated to serving our community,” she said.
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