The appointment of Ms Laurinda Gardner as the Monitor for the City of Casey will extend to Tuesday 11 February 2020. The Minister for Local Government, Adem Somyurek, announced on Friday 31 January.
Ms Gardner is observing processes at the City of Casey and will make a report to the Minister for Local Government. She will inform the Minister of any councillors who behave in a manner that does not comply with their role.
Her report will also address Council’s capacity to address issues with decision-making. She will also report on the ability of Council to provide good governance.
Ms Gardner has more than 20 years’ experience as both a member and chair of several government and not for profit boards. These include:
- Department of Environment, Local Government, Water and Planning, Executive Remuneration Committee Independent member 2015
- The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Board 2017
- Victorian Planning Authority Board 2018
- Department of Environment, Local Government, Water and Planning, Digital Cadastre Modernisation Steering Committee, Independent member 2018
- Energy Safe Victoria, Audit and Risk Committee, Independent member, and Remuneration Committee, Independent Chair 2018
- Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria, Audit and Risk Management Committee, Independent member 2018
- Department of Health and Human Services Audit and Risk Management Committee Independent Member 2019
Ms Gardner has previously served as a monitor within local government for the City of Greater Geelong between April 2016 and November 2017.
Between 1998 and 2013 Ms Gardner worked for the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance. Before that, she worked at the City of Melbourne in several roles, including the Director of Corporate Services from 1995 - 1998.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the difference between a monitor and an administrator?
A monitor observes processes at Council and makes a report to the Minister for Local Government. If the Minister decides to dismiss a Council, administrators may be appointed to act as the Council until elections are held.
2. Does the appointment of a monitor mean that Councillors have been removed?
Councillors will continue in their present roles at the City of Casey. The IBAC hearing is still ongoing, and the City of Casey will implement any recommendations that result from the investigation. If there is evidence of corruption or police misconduct, IBAC may:
- bring criminal proceedings for an offence relating to any matter arising out of the investigation
- refer any matter under investigation to the Office of Public Prosecutions
- refer matters to another entity (including the public body which was the subject of the investigation) for consideration of disciplinary or other action
- make recommendations about issues arising out of the inquiry to the relevant principal officer of a body, the responsible Minister, or the Premier, and request a response
- publish public reports and produce critical risk and prevention resources.
Ultimately, under the Local Government Act 1989, only the Minister for Local Government has the power to remove a Council.
3. Will Council meetings still go ahead and are the Councillors still making decisions at Council meetings?
Council meetings will continue as scheduled under the observation of Ms Gardner.
Councillors currently on leave of absence:
- Cr Sam Aziz - Extended leave of absence until 30 December 2019
- Cr Geoff Ablett - Leave of absence until 18 December 2019
- Cr Damien Rosario - Leave of absence until 18 December 2019
4. Are the councillors still getting paid their allowance?
Councillors continue to receive their Councillor allowance per the Local Government Act 1989.
5. What will the Monitor do at Casey?
The Monitor will:
- Monitor the City of Casey’s governance functioning, processes and practices in light of Operation Sandon being conducted by the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).
- Monitor any issues identified by the municipal Monitor, which could impact on the integrity of Council decision-making and the Council’s ability to provide good governance.
- Advise on and provide assistance and support to the Council concerning the Council’s governance processes and practices, with specific regard to the matters raised in i. and 2. Above.
- Advise and report to the Minister for Local Government by 31 January 2020 on:
- If Councillors, individually or as a group, behave in a manner that does not accord with the role of a Councillor.
- Any impact on the integrity and/or functioning of Council decision-making and the orderly governance of the City of Casey arising from any issues identified with regard the matters raised in 1. And 2. Above.
- The capacity of the Council to address any issues concerning the matters raised in 1. And 2. Above, including the effectiveness of any steps taken by the Council to address the problems identified, and any recommendations for the exercise of the Minister’s powers under the Local Government Act 1989.
6. Are ratepayers funding the Monitor? How much is she paid per day/week?
In accordance with the Local Government Act Council is required to pay the Monitor as determined by the Minister.
7. The City of Casey previously had a monitor in 2016. Why weren’t all the problems fixed then?
A monitor was appointed in 2016 following the Victorian Ombudsman’s report into the City of Casey’s Special Charge Scheme in Market Lane. The Monitor’s report detailed how the Ombudsman’s recommendations and concerns were dealt with and the initiatives implemented by the Council to ensure these changes were adhered to in the future. The current hearing is concerning different and separate allegations.
For more information, see media statement here.