A DEMAND for Warrnambool City officers to publicly release detailed legal bills has been rejected as an “operational issue” .
In the latest show of hostility between the rival councillor camps, Cr Peter Hulin called for full transparency on how much was spent by the municipality on legal expenses.
An abridged list showed $544,840 had been spent between July 2011 and June 2013 and was provided to councillors with two to five-word descriptions of how much had been spent and for what purpose.
Cr Hulin said the information provided was inadequate claimed the council’s approach to legal matters was profligate and extravagant.
However, Cr Jacinta Ermacora labelled Cr Hulin’s motion a “fishing expedition” and the request for further information was opposed 4-3 by councillors at the Lighthouse Theatre meeting on Monday evening.
Cr Hulin said Warrnambool City Council spent an excessive sum on legal matters and claim councillors on the other side of the argument were “afraid of having full and open disclosure”. “That’s our job as councillors — to see where ratepayer money is being spent and make sure there isn’t any waste,” he said.
“Cr Ermacora and others obviously want to turn a blind eye to how the council operates but I think the people of Warrnambool deserve to know if their council is wasting money on legal bills.”
Cr Kylie Gaston said the motion delved into operational matters that were not in the purview of elected representatives. “I see neither the point nor necessity of this motion,” she said.
“There’s no need to waste valuable hours on looking at every single legal matter that council has dealt with when they don’t relate to the work we perform as councillors.”
Cr Hulin called for the council on Monday evening to provide legal information “down to the invoice level” but Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh said such a move would be inappropriate.