Former Young Shire councillors John Walker and Allan Miller say they are still baffled about the nature of an investigation into potential Code of Conduct breaches which prevented them from being selected on the Hilltops Council Local Representative Committee.
More so, they maintain that because this investigation has become so public, their names have been tarnished.
The two councillors were advised of the potential Code of Conduct issues by Hilltops Council administrator Wendy Tuckerman during a ringaround informing local people who had successfully applied for the Local Representation Committee.
At the time Mrs Tuckerman said this information had come to her via the Office of Local Government.
“During the process of selecting members I was made aware that there had been two former Young councillors referred to the Office of Local Government for review for potential code of conduct issues,” she said at the time, adding that she was not able to discuss the context of those code of conduct issues.
Both former councillors say on May 31, four days after being advised they were being investigated, they were formally notified by Hilltops Council deputy general manager David Aber, "that the investigation related to the potential release of confidential information relating to the dismissal of the former general manager".
Mr Aber said the investigation commenced in December 2015 and this information had been communicated at council's April meeting in response to a question raised by Councillor Tony Wallace into the leaking of confidential information relating to Peter Vlatko’s departure from Young Shire Council.
Mr Walker said his impression of that exchange at the meeting was that council had initiated a follow-up enquiry into that alleged disclosure and thought nothing of it.
It was a shocked John Walker who discovered from his conversation with Mrs Tuckerman on May 27, that he was the subject of potential Code of Conduct investigation. Allan Miller received the same news and was similarly shocked.
SInce then the councillors have remained in the dark about any details of that investigation, meanwhile fielding questions from a concerned public.
"I've had a heap of phone calls, mostly from people asking what was going on," Mr Miller said.
"The public want to know what is happening and you'd think this far along we'd have some answers by now," he said.
He's come as close as a conversation with Hilltops Council's interim deputy general manager David Aber indicated to him he didn't think the matter would go any further and he would receive a letter from Office of Local Government by Thursday, June 2.
“That letter still hasn't arrived," Mr Miller said.
It's a situation that Mr Walker says is being thrown around like a hot potato with nobody taking responsibility for an outcome.
"Wendy Tuckerman is saying she knew nothing about it, that her hands were tied, David Aber said he was unable to provide further information and the Office of Local Government is saying it is in the hands of the council to determine," he said.
"For some reason, we've been prevented from answering or defending any allegations against us - which is our civil right - and an opportunity we should be given.
In fact John Walker admonishes the previous administration of the Young Shire Council for wasting money on what he labels a “witch hunt”.
He told The Witness, tens of thousands of dollars were spent on fees investigating potential Code of Conduct breaches when that money could be better spent on roads and infrastructure.
“But, it sounds like there was absolutely nothing to answer for - which was a complete waste of time and money,” he said.
“Worse - we don’t even know what we did wrong,” he said.
They’re both now escalating the matter.
In a letter to the Local Government minister Paul Toole, dated June 7, Mr Miller has relayed his concerns his name has been unnecessarily tarnished as a result of this process and asked, as a matter of urgency, for details and reasons behind the investigation, why he and Mr Walker had been singled out, what evidence backs the potential breach and why the news came from the Hilltops Council administrator in on May 27, and not earlier.
“Given that the other six former Young Shire Councillors were selected to represent Young on the newly-formed committee, it would appear to me that they do not have a potential breach against their names, which clearly suggest to me that Mr Walker and myself were the only councillors investigated,” Mr Miller said.
John Walker is similarly aggrieved.
“From what I can ascertain, this whole scenario appears to be based on malicious accusations and protected by a shroud of secrecy,” he said.
“I hesitate to call it an investigation because to me it was a targeted witch hunt on Allan Miller and myself for fulfilling our role as effective community representatives,” he said.
“This is not only our reputations at stake here - this is the council’s reputation that’s being called into question because if they’re doing it to us they’re doing it to everybody.”
“The public has a right to know what is going on in their local council - simple as that - this is the level of government closest to the people and, democratically speaking, the voice of the community not a political guillotine.”
Mr Walker, also president of the Young Sub-branch of the Returned Servicemens League, said as a veteran he was insulted that an abuse of democratic process and good governance had been used against he and Mr Miller.
“Actions like this were once not tolerated in local government,” he said, “we should not be tolerating it now.”
Minster for Local Government Paul Toole said the appointment of members to Local Representation Committees is a matter for the new council's administrator.
He confirmed Alan Miller has written to the Office of Local Government seeking information.
“The Office of Local Government will respond to Mr Miller's letter shortly,” Mr Toole said.
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