By Kate Taylor
A monitor has been appointed to Moorabool Shire Council, and the ratepayer is footing the bill.
Unlike nearby councils plagued by governance issues, however, Moorabool’s monitor is self-appointed.
Terry Bramham, a solicitor with Macquarie Local Government Lawyers, has been overseeing council meetings for at least two weeks in a “governance monitoring role.”
The Moorabool News started asking questions about the monitor when he was noticed taking notes at a council meeting – however councillors deflected questions until after the matter was revealed at a closed special meeting of council, held on Wednesday 19 July.
A report on the matter, written by council CEO Rob Croxford, stated Terry Bramham’s role is to “observe Council Meetings with the objective to provide feedback regarding performance.”
The move was included as part of the “Councillor Development and Assistance Program” which has a heavy focus on councillor dispute resolution.
The report also includes recommendations of three providers of mediation and conflict resolution services for councillors.
Councillors have been tight-lipped on why the process has begun, but the Moorabool News understands that it has been instigated by Mayor David Edwards in response to conflict between two fellow East Ward councillors. Names have not been revealed but leaves Cr’s Keogh, Bingham and Dudzik on the list.
The new program includes a clause which would provide the Mayor with an extra option in dealing with conflict between councillors.
“In the event the Mayor is unable to negotiate agreement between the Councillors the service providers could also be engaged by the Mayor or Councillors in dispute as an informal measure. Failing that the formal process is implemented.”
No information is available on how much the monitor will cost council, but costs are anticipated to be high with Terry Bramham attending at least two council meetings per week.
“In addition to working with Councillors, Mr Bramham would also review Officer reports to assess whether these are meeting the needs of Council. It is anticipated Mr Bramham would be engaged over the next 3-4 months.”
The program also includes mentoring for councillors, which is expected to be absorbed into current allowances for mentoring and which are expected to be itemised in the end of year financials generated by council.
“It is suggested that a mentoring resource be established for Councillors to make confidential contact with and engage services that range from personal support, councillor development and strategies for dealing with stress and complexity.”
Improving councillors’ “culture” is at least one aim of the program.
“The intent of the proposed Councillor Development and Assistance Program is to support skill acquisition, establish and promote a positive culture, along with offering workplace (OHS) and counselling options.”
“The program will also aim to ensure that good governance is instituted which is demonstrated in decision-making, compliance with legislation and constructive relationships.”