Council inquiry not warranted says Kyogle mayor
Kyogle mayor Ernie Bennett says a public inquiry into Councils past conduct would be a threat to local democracy this is, if the inquiry recommended the Council be sacked.
The comments come following a Department of Local Government report, tabled in the NSW Parliament last week, which revealed mismanagement by senior Council staff and a failure on the part of councillors to reign them in.
However, Mr Bennett says all the problems raised have since been fixed or are now being addressed.
The losers in any inquiry will be the ratepayers of Kyogle, Cr Bennett said. It will be expensive, and they may lose local democracy for an extended period as a result, as has happened in the Tweed.
Kyogle Council now has 40 days to respond to the issues raised by investigators and convince the NSW Government that a formal inquiry is not necessary.
Many of the problems related to the conduct of former general manager Ken Davies, who was fired last December.
Amongst Mr Davies excesses with the Council purse were orders for three luxury Caprice V8 sedans. Asked where they were, Cr Bennett said the first Caprice had been traded in on the second.
When I found out about the third one, I instructed that the order be cancelled, he said. I understand the car got as far as Casino, but never left the showroom for Kyogle.
When asked if there would be any legal action against Mr Davies, Cr Bennett said it would be inappropriate for him to comment at this stage.
Investigators also slammed Council for abandoning responsibility for 26 Crown Reserves, however, the issue is now murky with some community groups saying they dont want to hand back control to Council. Mr Bennett says Council is also working on procedural concerns raised in the report.
We are addressing the issue of Crown Reserve management by asking each and every one of them if they want to return to Council management, or to continue being run by community organisations, Cr Bennett said. We have also changed our procedures for dealing with DAs, with a lot more of them coming before Council. Councillors have been given training on declaration of pecuniary interests, and staff have had training to improve minute-taking practices.
Cr Bennett said occupational health and safety issues highlighted in the report, including electrical safety at the Councils three public swimming pools, were already addressed before they opened last season. Criticism over handling of water and sewerage improvements for the Muli Muli community have also been overcome according to Mr Bennett, who says work on upgrades will begin as soon as possible.
I certainly dont believe an inquiry is warranted and I certainly dont think its inevitable.