Probe rejects WCC misconduct complaints

THE local government umpire has dismissed two complaints alleging misconduct by Warrnambool councillors against their colleagues.

Basic determinations of two separate council conduct panels have been disclosed in the agenda for Monday’s  city council meeting.

They underline simmering tension within council ranks which have dogged attempts at council unity since the 2012 municipal election.

In both cases, complaints were lodged by councillors Peter Hulin, Brian Kelson and Peter Sycopoulis. 

The first was lodged on December 20 last year against Cr Rob Askew.

Only three weeks later, they lodged the second complaint against Jacinta Ermacora.

In both cases, the Municipal Association of Victoria formed a councillor conduct panel to consider the complaints. 

Barrister Peter Harris and experienced municipal expert Noel Harvey adjudicated on the matters in a June 13 visit to Warrnambool.

Two weeks later, they handed down their finding: “The application is dismissed.”

A detailed written explanation for the determinations must be given to the council by the end of the month.

Allegations can only be dismissed on grounds of either they were frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance.

The Standard understands the alleged incidents occurred in the city council chambers either during or after open public meetings. It is uncertain how many witnesses there were to the alleged events.

Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh was contacted for comment but did not respond in time for publication deadline.

Cr Hulin said he looked forward to more information being made public about the subject matter.

“I find the whole process (on this issue) deeply disturbing,” he said.

His comments were reflected by municipal allies councillors Kelson and Sycopoulis. 

“I look forward in the future to tell the whole story but due to the restrictions of confidentiality, I’m unable to comment further,” Cr Kelson said.

Cr Ermacora said she welcomed the MAV panel’s findings, but also added she had to adhere to the Local Government Act which required confidentiality.

“I am pleased that the independent panel has dismissed allegations of misconduct brought against myself and Cr Askew by three fellow councillors,” Cr Ermacora said in a written statement. 

“I am advised by the panel that more detail is pending.”

Cr Askew echoed Cr Ermacora’s comments, noting the complaint was either frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance.

Councillors meet for the first time since the publication of the panel’s findings at 5.45pm Monday in the municipal chambers. 

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