'Failed': Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell. Photo: Angela Milne
The ‘‘dysfunctional’’ Wangaratta City Council will be sacked by the Napthine government because of rampant bullying and intimidating behaviour towards staff and councillors and waste of ratepayers funds.
Local Government Minister Jeanette Powell will introduce legislation to formally dismiss the Rural City of Wangaratta Council on Wednesday, which will receive bipartisan support.
Administrators will be appointed until the next council elections in October 2016.
The move comes a day after independent MP Geoff Shaw was charged by Victoria Police but Ms Powell said the decision to dump the council had been coming for some time.
She said the decision had been signed off by cabinet on Wednesday and was the last resort.
The last council to be sacked was Brimbank City Council.
"The Coalition government is taking this action because the Wangaratta Council has failed to provide effective leadership and service for the community,” Mrs Powell said.
“Wangaratta Rural City Council is so dysfunctional as to make the efficient and effective operation and management of the Rural City of Wangaratta unachievable under the existing council.
“The Rural City of Wangaratta Council has failed to meet its legal obligations to provide a safe workplace by allowing a culture of bullying and intimidating behaviour among some councillors towards staff to grow, impacting on staff wellbeing and leading to a large number of staff resignations.’’
The council was elected in October, one councillor resigned just months into her tenure and two other councillors threatened to withdraw from some council activities.
The ‘‘toxic workplace’’ also saw the chief executive and the corporate management team leave at a cost to the council, which went from a surplus to deficit.
“The council’s failure to govern effectively has seen $1.5 million of ratepayers’ funds wasted to date on councillor dispute procedures, Councillor Conduct Panels, legal fees, staff departures and temporary replacement staff,’’ Ms Powell said.
Four months ago the government appointed Inspector of Municipal Administration Peter Stephenson to monitor the council, his advice and an earlier Probity Audit undertaken by Bill Scales.
“During my interviews with those who had conducted these key reviews, the constant theme conveyed to me was that the behaviour and performance of the Rural City of Wangaratta Council was the worst that they had observed,” Ms Powell said.
The Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate has conduct investigation into 77 complaints over the last 11 months.
Shadow Local Minister Richard Wynne said Labor would back the dismissal, having called for the sacking of the council weeks ago, and wanted the matter dealt with as a matter of importance.
The council is in the federal seat of Indi which has captured headlines because the incumbent Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella is set to lose to independent Cathy McGowan. Ms Mirabella released a statement conceding on Wednesday morning.
‘‘The minister has to answer as to why she has waited until after the federal election to act,’’ Mr Wynne said.
‘‘Not only will the Labor party support the sacking, I have called on the minister to bring on the legislation for urgent debate on Thursday in the interest of good governance and the ratepayers of Wangaratta.’’