Decisions by Proxy: Councillor Forums under review for non compliance of s89 of the ACT

A complaint has been forward to the Victorian Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate requesting that the State Government investigate the management and administration of the City of Melbourne Councillor Forums and its compliance with section 89 of the Victorian Local Government Act 1989 (The Act)

Section 89 of the Local Government Act provides for the public right to attend all council meetings with the exception when matters of confidentiality are discussed. 

The City of Melbourne considers a number of issues that effect Council policy and its administration at the Council Forums which are held in closed session. 

On November 27, 2012 the City of Melbourne held a Councillor Forum in which a number of issues of Council policy and administration were discussed.  This meeting was closed to the public and its agenda and reports were not published.

Decision by Proxy

The City of Melbourne falsely claim that because “they do not make decisions” at the Councillor Forums they do not fall under the provisions of section 89 of the Act. The Council administration acts under delegations on the recommendations and discussions arising at the Councillors’ forum.  This is akin to decisions by proxy.

The City of Melbourne publishes a record of the meeting,  pursuant to the Local Government regulations, weeks after the event. However the agenda of the Councillor Forums are not published prior to the meetings and members of the public are denied access to detailed information, reports or input into the deliberations and discussions of the Councillors.  Members of the pubic wishing to gain access to information and reports presented at the Councillor forums  need to make an application under the provisions an FOI legislation which is a further abuse of process.

Denial of natural justice.  

Many of the issues raised and discussed in closed session at Councillor Forums effect public policy and as they are not open to the public deny members of the public the right to observe, monitor  and/or provide input into the decisions of Council.  Detailed reports. minutes and discussion papers presented to at the Councillor Forums  are not published or made available to the public via the Council Web site.

One member of the public said “they had requested copies of the reports being presented to Council but were denied access“.  The Council Officer concerned said “that this is not the way we do business“. Matters under consideration are no longer discussed in open public forums but are decided behind closed doors.

The newly elected Council has failed to act or question the legality of the Councils actions.

Record of Delegated Authority

There is no public record or registry of decisions made under delegation.

It is difficult or impossible to determine under what authority the administration has in setting public policy or matters contained under Council Local Laws

Avoidance of compliance

The conduct of the City of Melbourne Councillor is a deliberate attempt to avoid the provisions of section 89 of the Act and to deny members of the public the right to attend and observe Council meetings.

Public Confidence

This seriously undermines public confidence in the administration of the Council and could lead to corruption as a result of the lack of transparency and accountability

Then and Now: Doyle backs down from Legal Challenge: Decisions by Proxy

Robert Doyle on the run backs down on legal challenge of integrity Then … and Now

Councillors Richard Forster, Rohan Leppert and Stephen Mayne have already reneged on their commitment to Open and Transparent Government


Richard Foster said “he also wanted to increase the public’s perception of the council’s integrity by ending the policy of closing council meetings

 “Doing nothing is not an option“.- Richard Foster “Our Melbourne” @Richo_Foster That is until he was elected. Policy and commitment for Open and transparency out the window. 

Within less than 2 months of being elected @Richo_Foster continued practice of secret meetings behind closed doors locking out the public .

Greens’ Rohan Leppert “there were issues of transparency that needed to be addressed“. Leppert, like that of his predecessor Greens Councillor  Fraser Bindley before him, also supported closed meetings subverting s89 LGA

Self proclaimed “Transparency advocate” and new councillor Stephen Mayne @MayneReport has also continued the practice of secret meetings subverting s89 of the LGA

 
On November 27 The City Council held a “Decision by Proxy” Councillor Forum meeting locking out the public and community.  No reports and no minutes, No accountability.  No Transparency. Policy on the run hidden from public view. 

  • Open and transparent systems permit everyone to make informed choices, and give everyone access to information in an easily understood format

    Accountability is acting responsibly and being answerable for actions taken

    A lack of openness, transparency and insufficient accountability creates the conditions in which corruption flourishes

    The Internet is the ideal medium for cost effective delivery of information maintaining open and transparent government (eGovernance)

       

     

Section 89 Victorian Local Government Act 1989

Meetings to be open to the public
  • 89. Meetings to be open to the public

    (1) Unless subsection (2) applies, any meeting of a Council or a special
    committee must be open to members of the public.

    (2) A Council or special committee may resolve that the meeting be closed to
    members of the public if the meeting is discussing any of the following-

    (a) personnel matters;

    (b) the personal hardship of any resident or ratepayer;

    (c) industrial matters;

    (d) contractual matters;

    (e) proposed developments;

    (f) legal advice;

    (g) matters affecting the security of Council property;

    (h) any other matter which the Council or special committee considers
    would prejudice the Council or any person;

    (i) a resolution to close the meeting to members of the public.

    (3) If a Council or special committee resolves to close a meeting to members
    of the public the reason must be recorded in the minutes of the meeting.

    (4) Unless subsection (4A) applies, a Council must at least 7 days before the
    holding of-

    (a) an ordinary council meeting; or

    (b) a special council meeting; or

    (c) a meeting of a special committee comprised solely of Councillors-

    give public notice of the meeting.

    (4A) If urgent or extraordinary circumstances prevent a Council from complying
    with subsection (4), the Council must-

    (a) give such public notice as is practicable; and

    (b) specify the urgent or extraordinary circumstances which prevented the
    Council from complying with subsection (4) in the minutes.

    (5) The Chairperson of a special committee that is not comprised solely of
    Councillors must provide reasonable notice to the public of meetings of the
    special committee.

       

Memo to Brumby: Parliament is Supreme not government

Open and transparent accountable government is essential to good governance

There is no need for a ongoing Commission on Corruption as recommended by Craig Langdon, a disenfranchised member of Parliament who has lost pre-selection, there never the less is ongoing serious concern about the Brumby government and their consistent attempts to undermine and prevent Parliamentary and independent review of government.

However John Brumby’s refusal to subject Government to open independent review is a real concern.

The Victorian Government has recently attacked and undermined the role of the office of the Ombudsman and even brought into question the right of parliament to undertake a review. To add to this concern Brumby has also refused to subject the Victorian Electoral Commission to review making it accountable to Ombudsman.

It is difficult for any government to undertake or support any review of the electoral commission without running the risk of being accused of interfering and intimidating the electoral office. The Victorian Chief Electoral Commissioneris an officer of the Parliament and as such is not readily subjected to government oversight. Whilst we do not assert there is overt corruption in the Victorian State Electoral Commission there are issues of serious concern related to the administration and the competence of the Electoral Commission. The Parliamnatary committee review of the conduct of the 2006 State election failed to address a number of serious flaws and omissions in the conduct of public elections.

The actions of the Chief Commissioner in seeking to deflect criticism over in the way in which municipal and state elections are conducted in Victorian is a real concern. The Chief Commissioner in his report to parliament has raised a number of issues that parliament has either swept over, ignored to buried their head in the sane. The Chief Commissioner has gone as far as false allegation as part of an ongoing attempt to harass witnesses to the Parliamentary inquiry. Complaints have been made to the parliament but the parliament has failed to undertake a proper review of the Commissioner’s actions. Never the less there are issues that need to be and should be properly addressed. The office of the Ombudsman in the absence of a parliamentary investigation is the appropriate body to undertake such a review.

Public elections are no longer open and transparent. The administration of the Victorian State Electoral Office is not subjected to the normal processes of review as is the case with other government administrations.

The parliamentary committee on Electoral Matters, now headed buy Robin Scott is aware of the issues but have failed to subject the Electoral Commission to the review by the Ombudsman. Parliament has not at red top amend the Ombudsman act which as it stands removes the Electoral Commission from its jurisdiction.

To make matters worst the Office of Public Prosecutions headed by John Cain Jr. has sought to prevent public comment and discussion on the states administration by seeking to imtimmidate independent media reports on the role and conduct played by the Victorian Electoral Commission. A public body that is in serious need of review and is not held accountable for its actions.

This along with recent reports that the Government is questioning the right of the Victorian parliament to undertake a review in the Legislative Council is of real concern. It removes the avenue of transparency and accountability of government.

Brumby’s refusal to subject government administration to review, his attacks on the office of the ombudsman and the recent attempt to prevent the parliamentary inquiries allows corruption to take root and fester.

Memo to Brumby: Parliament is Supreme not government

Open and transparent accountable government is essential to good governance

There is no need for a ongoing Commission on Corruption as recommended by Craig Langdon, a disenfranchised member of Parliament who has lost pre-selection, there never the less is ongoing serious concern about the Brumby government and their consistent attempts to undermine and prevent Parliamentary and independent review of government.

However John Brumby’s refusal to subject Government to open independent review is a real concern.

The Victorian Government has recently attacked and undermined the role of the office of the Ombudsman and even brought into question the right of parliament to undertake a review. To add to this concern Brumby has also refused to subject the Victorian Electoral Commission to review making it accountable to Ombudsman.

It is difficult for any government to undertake or support any review of the electoral commission without running the risk of being accused of interfering and intimidating the electoral office. The Victorian Chief Electoral Commissioneris an officer of the Parliament and as such is not readily subjected to government oversight. Whilst we do not assert there is overt corruption in the Victorian State Electoral Commission there are issues of serious concern related to the administration and the competence of the Electoral Commission. The Parliamnatary committee review of the conduct of the 2006 State election failed to address a number of serious flaws and omissions in the conduct of public elections.

The actions of the Chief Commissioner in seeking to deflect criticism over in the way in which municipal and state elections are conducted in Victorian is a real concern. The Chief Commissioner in his report to parliament has raised a number of issues that parliament has either swept over, ignored to buried their head in the sane. The Chief Commissioner has gone as far as false allegation as part of an ongoing attempt to harass witnesses to the Parliamentary inquiry. Complaints have been made to the parliament but the parliament has failed to undertake a proper review of the Commissioner’s actions. Never the less there are issues that need to be and should be properly addressed. The office of the Ombudsman in the absence of a parliamentary investigation is the appropriate body to undertake such a review.

Public elections are no longer open and transparent. The administration of the Victorian State Electoral Office is not subjected to the normal processes of review as is the case with other government administrations.

The parliamentary committee on Electoral Matters, now headed buy Robin Scott is aware of the issues but have failed to subject the Electoral Commission to the review by the Ombudsman. Parliament has not at red top amend the Ombudsman act which as it stands removes the Electoral Commission from its jurisdiction.

To make matters worst the Office of Public Prosecutions headed by John Cain Jr. has sought to prevent public comment and discussion on the states administration by seeking to imtimmidate independent media reports on the role and conduct played by the Victorian Electoral Commission. A public body that is in serious need of review and is not held accountable for its actions.

This along with recent reports that the Government is questioning the right of the Victorian parliament to undertake a review in the Legislative Council is of real concern. It removes the avenue of transparency and accountability of government.

Brumby’s refusal to subject government administration to review, his attacks on the office of the ombudsman and the recent attempt to prevent the parliamentary inquiries allows corruption to take root and fester.

Memo to Brumby: Parliament is Supreme not government

Open and transparent accountable government is essential to good governance

There is no need for a ongoing Commission on Corruption as recommended by Craig Langdon, a disenfranchised member of Parliament who has lost pre-selection, there never the less is ongoing serious concern about the Brumby government and their consistent attempts to undermine and prevent Parliamentary and independent review of government.

However John Brumby’s refusal to subject Government to open independent review is a real concern.

The Victorian Government has recently attacked and undermined the role of the office of the Ombudsman and even brought into question the right of parliament to undertake a review. To add to this concern Brumby has also refused to subject the Victorian Electoral Commission to review making it accountable to Ombudsman.

It is difficult for any government to undertake or support any review of the electoral commission without running the risk of being accused of interfering and intimidating the electoral office. The Victorian Chief Electoral Commissioneris an officer of the Parliament and as such is not readily subjected to government oversight. Whilst we do not assert there is overt corruption in the Victorian State Electoral Commission there are issues of serious concern related to the administration and the competence of the Electoral Commission. The Parliamnatary committee review of the conduct of the 2006 State election failed to address a number of serious flaws and omissions in the conduct of public elections.

The actions of the Chief Commissioner in seeking to deflect criticism over in the way in which municipal and state elections are conducted in Victorian is a real concern. The Chief Commissioner in his report to parliament has raised a number of issues that parliament has either swept over, ignored to buried their head in the sane. The Chief Commissioner has gone as far as false allegation as part of an ongoing attempt to harass witnesses to the Parliamentary inquiry. Complaints have been made to the parliament but the parliament has failed to undertake a proper review of the Commissioner’s actions. Never the less there are issues that need to be and should be properly addressed. The office of the Ombudsman in the absence of a parliamentary investigation is the appropriate body to undertake such a review.

Public elections are no longer open and transparent. The administration of the Victorian State Electoral Office is not subjected to the normal processes of review as is the case with other government administrations.

The parliamentary committee on Electoral Matters, now headed buy Robin Scott is aware of the issues but have failed to subject the Electoral Commission to the review by the Ombudsman. Parliament has not at red top amend the Ombudsman act which as it stands removes the Electoral Commission from its jurisdiction.

To make matters worst the Office of Public Prosecutions headed by John Cain Jr. has sought to prevent public comment and discussion on the states administration by seeking to imtimmidate independent media reports on the role and conduct played by the Victorian Electoral Commission. A public body that is in serious need of review and is not held accountable for its actions.

This along with recent reports that the Government is questioning the right of the Victorian parliament to undertake a review in the Legislative Council is of real concern. It removes the avenue of transparency and accountability of government.

Brumby’s refusal to subject government administration to review, his attacks on the office of the ombudsman and the recent attempt to prevent the parliamentary inquiries allows corruption to take root and fester.

Pitchford bites the dust and departs Melbourne

Embattled Chief Executive David Pitchford has called it quits. He has jump ship before being forced to resign.

David Pitchford, one of Australia over paid top executives whose skills do not match his remuneration, has been looking around for a new job ever since the City of Melbourne refused to extend his contract for the full term.

David, king of the designer me a job brigade, will be remembered for the blow-0ut in council expenditure and the rebuilding of the Council top heavy staff structure at Melbourne which under John So has seen Melbourne face a bleak future and possibly bankruptcy.

Both David Pitchford and John So failed to address the staffing crisis at Melbourne. The Council still remains top-heavy with most senior managers having closed ranks and held on to their position.

PITCHFORD NEVER REALLY ADDRESSED THE GOVERNANCE ISSUES IN COUNCIL

Along with Alison Lyons, Pitchford was responsible for the corruption scandal that hit Melbourne with the Traffic Jam Affair which resulted in the State Ombudsman Department doing a raid on the City Offices following the Council’s attempt to cover-up and their refusal to co-operate over their investigation of the Council’s parking fine extortion racket designed to fund the Council’s Staff’s empire. Lyons who was the “Brains behind the councils legal avoidance representation, was the first to go and now Pitchford has made his final farewells.

The Council has one year left of its fixed four-year term of office. And for the second time this term will go through the CEO selection procedures.


Melbourne City Council chief executive David Pitchford to quit
Mary Bolling – Herald Sun reports

MELBOURNE City Council’s top bureaucrat will announce his resignation today, at a press conference at Melbourne Town Hall.

Council chief executive David Pitchford will step down after four years in the role – and only months after being reappointed to the role by councilors.

Lord Mayor John So will not be at the press conference, and it is understood Mr Pitchford will take on a new role offshore.

Mr Pitchford was controversially appointed to the top council officer job in 2003.

It was later revealed he was not the number one candidate.

The bureaucrat came to council after terminating his contract as the Melbourne Commonwealth Games organising committee deputy CEO.

Earlier this year, Mr Pitchford was at the centre of a storm as a critical report recommended the big-spending council cut $4 million from the annual budget.

The report sparked a round of sackings at Town Hall.

Pitchford bites the dust and departs Melbourne

Embattled Chief Executive David Pitchford has called it quits. He has jump ship before being forced to resign.

David Pitchford, one of Australia over paid top executives whose skills do not match his remuneration, has been looking around for a new job ever since the City of Melbourne refused to extend his contract for the full term.

David, king of the designer me a job brigade, will be remembered for the blow-0ut in council expenditure and the rebuilding of the Council top heavy staff structure at Melbourne which under John So has seen Melbourne face a bleak future and possibly bankruptcy.

Both David Pitchford and John So failed to address the staffing crisis at Melbourne. The Council still remains top-heavy with most senior managers having closed ranks and held on to their position.

PITCHFORD NEVER REALLY ADDRESSED THE GOVERNANCE ISSUES IN COUNCIL

Along with Alison Lyons, Pitchford was responsible for the corruption scandal that hit Melbourne with the Traffic Jam Affair which resulted in the State Ombudsman Department doing a raid on the City Offices following the Council’s attempt to cover-up and their refusal to co-operate over their investigation of the Council’s parking fine extortion racket designed to fund the Council’s Staff’s empire. Lyons who was the “Brains behind the councils legal avoidance representation, was the first to go and now Pitchford has made his final farewells.

The Council has one year left of its fixed four-year term of office. And for the second time this term will go through the CEO selection procedures.


Melbourne City Council chief executive David Pitchford to quit
Mary Bolling – Herald Sun reports

MELBOURNE City Council’s top bureaucrat will announce his resignation today, at a press conference at Melbourne Town Hall.

Council chief executive David Pitchford will step down after four years in the role – and only months after being reappointed to the role by councilors.

Lord Mayor John So will not be at the press conference, and it is understood Mr Pitchford will take on a new role offshore.

Mr Pitchford was controversially appointed to the top council officer job in 2003.

It was later revealed he was not the number one candidate.

The bureaucrat came to council after terminating his contract as the Melbourne Commonwealth Games organising committee deputy CEO.

Earlier this year, Mr Pitchford was at the centre of a storm as a critical report recommended the big-spending council cut $4 million from the annual budget.

The report sparked a round of sackings at Town Hall.

Pitchford bites the dust and departs Melbourne

Embattled Chief Executive David Pitchford has called it quits. He has jump ship before being forced to resign.

David Pitchford, one of Australia over paid top executives whose skills do not match his remuneration, has been looking around for a new job ever since the City of Melbourne refused to extend his contract for the full term.

David, king of the designer me a job brigade, will be remembered for the blow-0ut in council expenditure and the rebuilding of the Council top heavy staff structure at Melbourne which under John So has seen Melbourne face a bleak future and possibly bankruptcy.

Both David Pitchford and John So failed to address the staffing crisis at Melbourne. The Council still remains top-heavy with most senior managers having closed ranks and held on to their position.

PITCHFORD NEVER REALLY ADDRESSED THE GOVERNANCE ISSUES IN COUNCIL

Along with Alison Lyons, Pitchford was responsible for the corruption scandal that hit Melbourne with the Traffic Jam Affair which resulted in the State Ombudsman Department doing a raid on the City Offices following the Council’s attempt to cover-up and their refusal to co-operate over their investigation of the Council’s parking fine extortion racket designed to fund the Council’s Staff’s empire. Lyons who was the “Brains behind the councils legal avoidance representation, was the first to go and now Pitchford has made his final farewells.

The Council has one year left of its fixed four-year term of office. And for the second time this term will go through the CEO selection procedures.


Melbourne City Council chief executive David Pitchford to quit
Mary Bolling – Herald Sun reports

MELBOURNE City Council’s top bureaucrat will announce his resignation today, at a press conference at Melbourne Town Hall.

Council chief executive David Pitchford will step down after four years in the role – and only months after being reappointed to the role by councilors.

Lord Mayor John So will not be at the press conference, and it is understood Mr Pitchford will take on a new role offshore.

Mr Pitchford was controversially appointed to the top council officer job in 2003.

It was later revealed he was not the number one candidate.

The bureaucrat came to council after terminating his contract as the Melbourne Commonwealth Games organising committee deputy CEO.

Earlier this year, Mr Pitchford was at the centre of a storm as a critical report recommended the big-spending council cut $4 million from the annual budget.

The report sparked a round of sackings at Town Hall.

Million Dollar Entourage John So’s cost of being popular

The Herald Sun has confirmed what we have been saying for the last six years.

John So has no idea of fiscal policies or how to govern. His Deputy Lord Mayor and political advisor is renowned for his financial activities and lack of transparency.

John So has embarked on a care-free spend fest.

So is prepared to tax motorist and Melbourne’s business community with immunity.

The City Council is more interested in lurks and perks then holding So to account for his expenditure.

Only last month a Ernst and Young review, in which John So and the Council administration tried to keep secret, exposed the fact that the Council has been in the red for the last two years.

The report was condemning of the Council administration, alleging overt deception in the way in which the Council’s finance and governance has been administered.

Designer-a-job is riff within the city council.

The Council had become a private club where senior officers designed themselves a job and their task was empire building. If there was something to their disliking they would employ someone to do the task that they should have done themselves.

Last year the Council also was exposed following a raid by the State Ombudsman. Alison Lyons, Council’s legal advisor at the time, tried to thwart the Ombudsman from looking into the affairs of the Council. The Ombudsman found that the Council had acted corruptly and that the Council had extorted millions of dollars of funds from motorist illegally.

John So suffered a limp wrist blow last month when the City Council moved a motion of no-confidence in the Lord Mayor. The motion was lost on the casting vote of John So himself.

Last week former Lord Mayor, City Councillor and Finance Committee Chairperson Kevin Chamberlain called on the State Government to sack the City Council .

What is clear is that the City of Melbourne must undergo a full review in line with other municipalities reviews. Why is Melbourne exempt?

The Member for Melbourne, Bronwyn Pike, had promised during last years State Election camiagn to undertake a review of Melbourne’s external boundaries. A promis that saved her seat in parliament.

It’s time for the State Government to act on the promises made and to initiate a public review so that any recommendations and findings can be implemented prior to the 2008 council elections.

The proposed review should also reconsider teh merits of the direct election model of te Lord Mayor with further consideration given to creating a expanded rater City for Melbourne.

The State Government’s “Do nothing – bury their head in the sand” approach can not continue. Dick Wynn, Minister for Local Government knows the issues well it is time he puts a plan for reform into action

Peter Mickelburough and Ian Royall
Herald Sun
July 13, 2007 12:00am

JOHN SO is the most expensive mayor Melbourne has had.

An Insight investigation has revealed it costs ratepayers up to $1 million a year to keep the mayoral office running.

Cr So, our first popularly elected Lord Mayor, is a cult figure to many Melburnians and last year became the first Australian named World Mayor.

——————————————————————————–

What do you think? Have your say below.
——————————————————————————–

But his office, like other city council departments, has bloated under his leadership.

His trappings of office include seven personal support staff: a full-time chauffeur, a media minder, an on-call speechwriter, an executive assistant, two part-time Pas and a chief of staff.

Cr So’s office and councillor expenses were off limits to a team from Ernst & Young called in to review council operations amid growing concerns they had become flabby and inefficient.

——————————————————————————–
John So: Power and passion

——————————————————————————–

The $300,000 review found the Town Hall management was top-heavy and disjointed and identified potential savings of at least $11.4 million.

Scores of staff are being axed across council departments to cut costs and balance the books.

But Cr So’s office has been spared the knife. He will retain all his staff, whose annual wages bill alone is estimated to nudge $700,000.

Add to this Cr So’s $120,000 annual allowance, expenses bill, and the cost of running his car and supplying his office.

“He certainly costs more than any lord mayor before him,” said one observer.

“If you include the many thousands spent on promotions that have a John So appearance clause built into them, it would easily top $1 million a year.”

The Lord Mayor yesterday defended the cost of his office and rebuffed his critics.

He said the resources of the mayoral office were for him and his deputy, Cr Gary Singer.

“I’m very conscious of the expenses, and the expenses have been reducing for a number of years,” he said.

“All I can is that we are very conscious of the resources that are available to us.”

Cr So also said he had called for the Ernst & Young report, saying that tough decisions had to be made as the previous review had been back in 1991.

The Insight investigation also revealed generous perks for the Lord Mayor’s chief of staff and close friend Kevin Louey, who is on a package of $140,000.

Cr So said the employment details were a management issue and he was not involved in drawing up Mr Luey’s contract.

“I believe he is the best person for the job,” Cr So said.

Insight can also reveal that councillors and executives were warned of long-term financial woe two years before the Ernst & Young efficiency report.

Cr So defended the council’s spending on marketing, promotions and sponsorships.

They were about stimulating business and bringing people in to the city, he said.

Just this week, councillors were asked to approve $720,000 in sports grants for city events linked to five major sporting events for the coming year. Instead, they signed off on $2.1 million for three years.

Every year until 2010, the council will hand out $100,000 for an international rugby match, $100,000 for the Formula One Grand Prix, $120,000 for the Australian Open tennis, $250,000 for AFL Grand Final week and $150,000 for the Spring Racing Carnival.

The funding was approved despite some earlier disquiet about the wisdom of the council giving cash to wealthy organisations such as the AFL and the Victorian Racing Club year after year.

Cr So said that everything he did was about delivering a balanced budget, stimulating business, and improving the quality of life in the municipality.

“It’s my job as Lord Mayor to represent the people of Melbourne,” he said.

Million Dollar Entourage John So’s cost of being popular

The Herald Sun has confirmed what we have been saying for the last six years.

John So has no idea of fiscal policies or how to govern. His Deputy Lord Mayor and political advisor is renowned for his financial activities and lack of transparency.

John So has embarked on a care-free spend fest.

So is prepared to tax motorist and Melbourne’s business community with immunity.

The City Council is more interested in lurks and perks then holding So to account for his expenditure.

Only last month a Ernst and Young review, in which John So and the Council administration tried to keep secret, exposed the fact that the Council has been in the red for the last two years.

The report was condemning of the Council administration, alleging overt deception in the way in which the Council’s finance and governance has been administered.

Designer-a-job is riff within the city council.

The Council had become a private club where senior officers designed themselves a job and their task was empire building. If there was something to their disliking they would employ someone to do the task that they should have done themselves.

Last year the Council also was exposed following a raid by the State Ombudsman. Alison Lyons, Council’s legal advisor at the time, tried to thwart the Ombudsman from looking into the affairs of the Council. The Ombudsman found that the Council had acted corruptly and that the Council had extorted millions of dollars of funds from motorist illegally.

John So suffered a limp wrist blow last month when the City Council moved a motion of no-confidence in the Lord Mayor. The motion was lost on the casting vote of John So himself.

Last week former Lord Mayor, City Councillor and Finance Committee Chairperson Kevin Chamberlain called on the State Government to sack the City Council .

What is clear is that the City of Melbourne must undergo a full review in line with other municipalities reviews. Why is Melbourne exempt?

The Member for Melbourne, Bronwyn Pike, had promised during last years State Election camiagn to undertake a review of Melbourne’s external boundaries. A promis that saved her seat in parliament.

It’s time for the State Government to act on the promises made and to initiate a public review so that any recommendations and findings can be implemented prior to the 2008 council elections.

The proposed review should also reconsider teh merits of the direct election model of te Lord Mayor with further consideration given to creating a expanded rater City for Melbourne.

The State Government’s “Do nothing – bury their head in the sand” approach can not continue. Dick Wynn, Minister for Local Government knows the issues well it is time he puts a plan for reform into action

Peter Mickelburough and Ian Royall
Herald Sun
July 13, 2007 12:00am

JOHN SO is the most expensive mayor Melbourne has had.

An Insight investigation has revealed it costs ratepayers up to $1 million a year to keep the mayoral office running.

Cr So, our first popularly elected Lord Mayor, is a cult figure to many Melburnians and last year became the first Australian named World Mayor.

——————————————————————————–

What do you think? Have your say below.
——————————————————————————–

But his office, like other city council departments, has bloated under his leadership.

His trappings of office include seven personal support staff: a full-time chauffeur, a media minder, an on-call speechwriter, an executive assistant, two part-time Pas and a chief of staff.

Cr So’s office and councillor expenses were off limits to a team from Ernst & Young called in to review council operations amid growing concerns they had become flabby and inefficient.

——————————————————————————–
John So: Power and passion

——————————————————————————–

The $300,000 review found the Town Hall management was top-heavy and disjointed and identified potential savings of at least $11.4 million.

Scores of staff are being axed across council departments to cut costs and balance the books.

But Cr So’s office has been spared the knife. He will retain all his staff, whose annual wages bill alone is estimated to nudge $700,000.

Add to this Cr So’s $120,000 annual allowance, expenses bill, and the cost of running his car and supplying his office.

“He certainly costs more than any lord mayor before him,” said one observer.

“If you include the many thousands spent on promotions that have a John So appearance clause built into them, it would easily top $1 million a year.”

The Lord Mayor yesterday defended the cost of his office and rebuffed his critics.

He said the resources of the mayoral office were for him and his deputy, Cr Gary Singer.

“I’m very conscious of the expenses, and the expenses have been reducing for a number of years,” he said.

“All I can is that we are very conscious of the resources that are available to us.”

Cr So also said he had called for the Ernst & Young report, saying that tough decisions had to be made as the previous review had been back in 1991.

The Insight investigation also revealed generous perks for the Lord Mayor’s chief of staff and close friend Kevin Louey, who is on a package of $140,000.

Cr So said the employment details were a management issue and he was not involved in drawing up Mr Luey’s contract.

“I believe he is the best person for the job,” Cr So said.

Insight can also reveal that councillors and executives were warned of long-term financial woe two years before the Ernst & Young efficiency report.

Cr So defended the council’s spending on marketing, promotions and sponsorships.

They were about stimulating business and bringing people in to the city, he said.

Just this week, councillors were asked to approve $720,000 in sports grants for city events linked to five major sporting events for the coming year. Instead, they signed off on $2.1 million for three years.

Every year until 2010, the council will hand out $100,000 for an international rugby match, $100,000 for the Formula One Grand Prix, $120,000 for the Australian Open tennis, $250,000 for AFL Grand Final week and $150,000 for the Spring Racing Carnival.

The funding was approved despite some earlier disquiet about the wisdom of the council giving cash to wealthy organisations such as the AFL and the Victorian Racing Club year after year.

Cr So said that everything he did was about delivering a balanced budget, stimulating business, and improving the quality of life in the municipality.

“It’s my job as Lord Mayor to represent the people of Melbourne,” he said.