Claims of "serious cultural issues" at Warrnambool City Council have been thrown into the spotlight this week, but a former employee says the problems go back as far as a decade.
Councillor Peter Hulin sensationally resigned last week citing toxic issues, while Cr Mike Neoh spoke out about serious cultural issues.
But Bernadette Northeast, who worked as the volunteer coordinator at the council from 2012 until late last year, said Cr Neoh's claim that the issues were six to 12 months old were in fact much more historical.
But she called on councillors to support the council's chief executive officer Peter Schneider.
"Right now, the councillors need to support their CEO who is supporting his amazing staff, and ensure the investigations that have begun run their course and are used to plan a positive way forward," Mrs Northeast said.
Mrs Northeast said an internal staff survey in 2018 found that while 75 per cent of employees loved their job, only 51 per cent of them looked forward to coming to work each day.
She said a survey done four years before that was "scathing" but not enough was done to address the concerns.
Only 50 per cent of staff took part in the survey in which the council ranked on the lower end of the scale for satisfaction compared to other councils - 26 councils scored worse and 51 scored better.
Mrs Northeast said she had raised concerns in 2018 with councillors about the survey, telling one of them that it was "really awful down there" and "people are suffering".
She was told they would raise the issue with the CEO, but was later told that it was an operational matter that was not for councillors.
"The reality is the alarm bells have been ringing for 10 years," she said.
The reality is the alarm bells have been ringing for 10 years.Bernadette Northeast
Mrs Northeast resigned from the council late last year after she was offered another job elsewhere, but she had been on paid suspension for three months while the council, under threat of termination, investigated why she had looked at former tourism manager David McMahon's receipts.
Mr McMahon resigned after it was revealed he had paid back an undisclosed amount after allegedly misusing his council credit card.
In September 2018, an internal finance check raised questions about the spending and money was repaid.
But mid-last year it made headlines.
Mrs Northeast said she wasn't the person who leaked details to a journalist, and the council had never alleged that she was the leak.
"I said to them at the time, 'you're joking, the whole town finally thinks you're looking at the credit cards and you still want to know who dobbed on you'," she said of the investigation into her.
She said access to the documents was open, required no extra passwords or special access and she didn't believe it was in breach of any council policy.
Mrs Northeast said she didn't take up her new job offer straight away because she was pushing for an independent investigation into which senior staff knew what about the credit card use, and allegations of bullying, and failed to act.
She said she was offered to be paid out early so the investigation into her actions would stop, but she didn't take up the offer because she wanted an investigation into credit cards and bullying.
Mrs Northeast said she believed an investigation into who knew about the credit card misuse and staff issues was finally done after she approached the council's audit and risk committee about her case.
She said she had a meeting with the Mr Schneider and mayor Tony Herbert on Christmas Eve where she said told them that a new staff survey, which is currently under way, should allow staff the freedom to feel safe to say what they really feel.
Mrs Northeast said she was now confident that people who had talked to her could safely and confidently go to the CEO, and since then several people have.
She said she hoped everything she, and her anonymous informers, gave investigators was shared with the ombudsman.
She said the credit card saga was a sign of a culture of "no transparency, no accountability, poor systems, poor structures and poor compliance".
Mrs Northeast said she didn't believe there was just one leak at the council who revealed details about the credit card issue, saying there was at least nine people she knew of that leaked information either before, during or after the news broke.
She said she was not the only person at the council that was placed on paid suspension. Mrs Northeast said the problem at the council in relation to the credit card use was contained to an isolated pocket, but it had negatively impacted the community's trust in the organisation and the community's faith in staff.
"It's impacted the general morale of staff who are actually, bar a small exception, love serving their community," she said.
Mrs Northeast said the new CEO would have been blindsided by the issues that he was not made aware of, and predated his arrival.
"My hope is that we can get across a message that people with experience and commitment to good governance run for council rather than single agenda/issue or politically driven people," she said.
Mr Schneider said staff had been advised that there were a number of investigations under way, and with the support of its human resources team we are rigorously working through all the concerns that we have been made aware of.
"At any given time it is not unusual for large organisations to be working through human resources issues," he said.
"The investigations, together with the staff survey results, will help focus efforts to enhance our workplace."