Council respond to commission
Moira Shire Council have agreed to engage lawyers to put in a joint submission to the Commission of Inquiry.
The decision was made at an extraordinary meeting of council on Monday, January 30.
Council have engaged Hunt & Hunt Lawyers to assist with the preparation of a submission to the Commission of Inquiry on behalf of the Councillors, with Cr Ed Cox moving the motion and Cr Wayne Limbrick seconding.
“I’d like to make it clear that there has been several emails and phone messages from ratepayers expressing their concern about potential cost of a joint submission being released but I want to make it clear that it is covered under directors and officers’ liability insurance and the cost to the ratepayers will be negligible,” Cr Limbrick said.
Cr Judy Heather also spoke to the motion, clarifying that in other aspects, rate payers will be paying for a joint letter to be submitted.
“Even though it is covered by insurance as we have been advised by our legal representatives, the rate payer is still due to pay the balance which can sometimes be excessive, I’m not sure of the amount,” Cr Heather said.
“It can also see the insurance premiums go up the next year so there is some cost, but I am a little concerned that we are writing a letter at rate payers cost at this particular point.
“I don’t think it is necessary.”
Councillor Wendy Buck added that she understood that council are doing this to show transparency to the community and will be doing this at each step before Councillor Peter Mansfield said that he fully supported the motion with the reply from council an appropriate action.
“I’d like to acknowledge that council is entitled to council laws jointly, entitled to legal representation due under the local government act 2020 and they are also entitled to the right of reply by way of submission,” Cr Buck said.
“I fully support the motion. I believe this is part of the commission of enquiry into the council and we have an obligation to our ratepayers to present our views to the commission in the form of a submission,” Cr Mansfield added.
“I believe it’s quite appropriate that we do that.” Community members in the Moira Shire region were able to provide input into the Commission of
Inquiry into council’s performance late last year and in Cobram recently with the commission to report back to the Minister for Local Government by February 28.
If the Commission of Inquiry determines to make an order for the payment of costs of the Commission of Inquiry under section 214 of the Act, to provide the reasons for any determination that the council should not be responsible for all of the costs.
Newly elected councillor Scott Olsen spoke against the motion and asked to amend the recommendation to ensure there would be no ambiguity.
“I’d like to speak against the motion as written and propose an amendment to the motion to read: that council engage Hunt & Hunt Lawyers to assist with the preparation of a submission to the Commission of Inquiry on behalf of the councillors as a group,” Cr Olsen said.
“I’d like to speak in favour of this amendment to reduce any ambiguity regarding the councillors as far as a group. It strengthens the original motion and understanding or it will fail with the group.”
Cr Heather agreed with Cr Olsen stating that it needed to be known that the submission was being made by the whole council.
“It’s a joint submission obviously but the recommendation makes it sound that it’s the whole group not individual councillors and that’s what’s concerning me,” Cr Heather said.
“If individual councillors need to be assisted with a submission, then they have to deal with it separately.
“We want to minimise the cost to the ratepayer as well.”
Council will now submit a reply to the commission before the matters are reported to the Minister for Local Government on February 28 and further actions taken in due course.