By Evelyn Leckie
CITY of Whittlesea chief executive Simon Overland has taken indefinite leave from his leadership position, citing health and safety reasons.
Mr Overland said his health and safety had been significantly affected due to changes in council.
It comes a month ahead of the former police chief commissioner testifying at the ‘Lawyer X’ Royal Commission – an investigation into Victoria Police’s use of defence lawyer Nicola Gobbo as an informant on Melbourne gangland criminal activity.
Mr Overland issued a statement on Wednesday saying interactions between councillors, and interactions between his executive leadership team and councillors were not keeping within requirements to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.
“Despite many attempts over the past two years, I have been unsuccessful in achieving improvement here, and in many respects the behaviours of some councillors have deteriorated, therefore increasing the risks to health and wellbeing,” he said.
“The situation has been very difficult now for two years, but with recent changes on council, I now regrettably find my own health and safety significantly affected and accordingly, as of now, I am taking related leave.”
It’s not the first time tensions have arisen between the chief executive and elected councillors.
In December last year, five City of Whittlesea councillors boycotted a monthly meeting amid Mr Overland’s implication in the Lawyer X scandal.
Cr Ricky Kirkham and four other councillors called for Mr Overland to resign due to his involvement in the pending Royal Commission.
Cr Tom Joseph told the Review last week he was extremely disappointed with the developments.
“Simon Overland was an excellent CEO who has achieved great results for our community,” he said.
“I am distressed that we are in this situation.
“It is clear that the lack of life experience of the new Mayor is resulting in council becoming dysfunctional.
“I can only hope that her naivety doesn’t result in one of the best run municipalities in Australia ending up being the worst in the country.”
The Review requested an interview with Mayor Emilia Sterjova but she did not respond.
On Saturday, Kelvin Spiller was confirmed as Whittlesea Council’s acting chief executive.
Mr Spiller has served as eight chief executive roles during his career, including at Rural City of Wangaratta, City of Greeter Geelong and Mornington Peninsula Shire Council.
Mr Overland said he was unsure when he would return to his role.