By Evelyn Leckie –
CITY of Whittlesea councillor Ricky Kirkham announced his immediate resignation last Monday, but details later emerged he was due to face a councillor conduct panel right before he resigned.
Acting Chief Municipal Inspector Dr John Lynch said the Chief Municipal Inspector had previously applied for a councillor conduct panel to make a finding of serious misconduct against Mr Kirkham.
“As Mr Kirkham has now resigned, this process will be discontinued,” Dr Lynch said.
Mr Kirkham told the Review that council had been a challenging environment for some years.
“This has led to a situation where allegations about misconduct are made for simply representing residents,” he said.
“I make no apology for being a strong advocate for the community.
“This ultimately means that difficult and robust discussions will take place. My primary accountability was to the community.
“I was not elected to cover up for the council’s mistakes – I was elected to hold them accountable and ensure council services were delivered to a high standard.
“Unfortunately, these failures are evident in major contract management – which I believe will cost the community millions to fix.
“I was not going to put myself in a situation where I was unable to discharge my obligations and accountability to the public.”
Mr Kirkham did not mention the councillor conduct panel initially in his departure statement last week.
A Victorian Electoral Commission spokesperson said a countback system would take place to replace Mr Kirkham.
Mr Kirkham’s resignation follows a string of events that have thrown a spotlight on council malfunctions.
Mayor Emilia Sterjova was disendorsed from the Labor Party last month for breaching party solidarity by accepting a non-Labor vote to assume the role as mayor.
Previous chief executive Simon Overland was sacked while on sick leave at the end of last year.
Mr Overland specified in November that interactions between councillors, and interactions between his executive leadership team and councillors, were not keeping with requirements to ensure a safe and healthy workplace.
Acting chief executive Kevin Spiller, who replaced Mr Overland, also announced his departure at the end of this month, citing personal reasons and other business commitments.
A State Government monitor is currently observing council operations and is due to deliver an interim report next month.