Ratepayers pay for monitor stay

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A MONITOR sent to Frankston Council to report to the state government on “governance issues” at council will be paid $1200 for each day of the stay.

Ratepayers will foot the bill for monitor Prue Digby’s work at council and will also pick up the tab for travel expenses.

The Labor state government confirmed when asked that the municipal monitor’s remuneration is fixed at $1200 per day, and must be paid by Frankston Council in accordance with the Local Government Act.

Ms Digby is expected to work at least two days each week for a possible full 18-month term of appointment, meaning ratepayers may ultimately pay more than $180,000 for the monitor’s wages while she attends council meetings.

“Ms Digby will keep an eye on the council and report back to the government on its progress,” Victorian Local Government Minister Marlene Kairouz said. “The monitor is there to ensure Frankston City Council is acting in the best interests of ratepayers.”

Ms Digby’s appointment term runs from 13 December last year until 30 June next year. The monitor will hand interim reports to the Minister’s department.

Before last month’s public council meeting, Ms Digby advised The Times to direct any questions about her role and work to the Local Government Minister’s department.

It is understood the monitor and council CEO Dennis Hovenden have advised councillors, who are elected representatives not council employees, not to speak to the media to try to ensure “media control” about contentious council matters.

Last month’s council meeting, the first attended by the monitor since her arrival at council and the first streamed near live online, featured bouts of bickering between councillors in the council chamber (Council ‘circus’ on show, The Times 5/2/18).

The mayor Cr Colin Hampton, chairing the meeting, accused Cr Glenn Aitken of “staring” at him during the at times fractious four-and-a-half hour proceedings.

Council CEO Dennis Hovenden and then mayor Cr Brian Cunial named themselves as complainants to the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate when it was announced by the state government the inspectorate had recommended a monitor be appointed at Frankston Council.

Last week The Times revealed the Inspectorate separately cleared two councillors, Kris Bolam and Steve Toms,  this month after investigations into complaints received from senior council staff alleged the councillors directed council staff in contravention of the Local Government Act.

Those investigations began before the monitor’s appointment was announced.

First published in the Frankston Times – 12 February 2018

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