IT is with great disappointment to hear a leak from Young Council that one and a half million dollars was spent on legal costs in the past couple of years.It has also cost around another four hundred thousand dollars against a Bendick Murrell tourist park developer who had consent in his favour by the Land and Environment Court, the Arborist issued a report that the trees are a danger to the public and should be removed immediately. Council administrator Wendy Tuckerman in writing refused to accept a Level 5 Arborist report, Hilltops Council refused to remove the stop work notice to allow the marked trees to be removed, why? No cost would have been forced on ratepayers if only our council had a little common sense and nnovation. Amazing enough personal attack can distract some when it cost nothing out of their pocket, court proceedings meant nothing from Young Council. We the ratepayers of Hilltops shire deserve to know where our money is spent. Young, Harden and Boorowa now are three equal Councils, combined are they paying for Young’s court costs. One very important question I would like to know: Why no nominations for future councillors are being called? We the ratepayers are entitled to know who to vote for. Police need information to investigate the Peter Vlatko event. This should also be a very important matter, no employee or employer should be given grace for wrong doing regarding who they are paying back, the money is not an option regardless of the circumstances, charges must be laid. I am asking people in Harden, Boorowa and Young for help in the running of a petition to bring Hilltops Council to answer all questions rate payers need answers for.
Firstly, I want to make it very clear that none of the former Boorowa, Harden and Young Councils were perfect, nor were they “basket cases”. As staff of Council we continue to resolve what we describe as “carry over” issues but Council will not be publicly airing those issues as there is no benefit to the community in doing so. Here are the answers to the questions raised in the letter. Details of legal costs for all the former Councils are all publicly available on Council’s website in the audited financial statements so there is no need for a leak. Specifically the former Young Council statements included $70,000 in legal fees on planning and development in the last financial year and $210,000 in legal years for the year before. Of the $210,000 the year before the majority relate to a specific development (referred to in the letter). In that case the court ruled in favour of Council and awarded costs to Council. Council has an obligation to do what is in the best interest of the community which is to participate in legal processes when necessary to ensure the right outcome and when we are right recoup the community’s money. I will not provide any further information on that matter other than to say that Council has been extremely accommodating with its time in helping the applicant understand the full implications of the court orders. In relation to the comment in the letter made about deserving to know where Council’s money is spent, Council’s audited financial statements which outline where Council money is spent are available on Council’s website. The audited financial statements were also publicly presented by Council’s auditors at the February Council meeting and the public were invited to attend. Council is open and transparent about where money is spent and again will be focusing on making sure the community is engaged in the budget process this year. As we move closer to the first Hilltops Council election it is important to clarify that the electoral commission is managing the election process. Council does not call for nominations for Councillors. As information becomes available for distribution from the electoral commission Council will distribute that information. As a start point I encourage the community to refer to: http://www.votensw.info/nsw_local_council_elections_2017 . We expect more information to be available within the coming month. In relation to the matter raised surrounding Peter Vlatko, again a “carry over” issue from the previous Council, this matter has been dealt with through Council’s solicitors as a part of due process and again, due to the nature of the proceeding I cannot make further comment. It is not my intention to respond to every letter to the editor, however where there are issues or themes raised which are impacting the community Council will continue to address them to make sure the community is informed. A. McMahon