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Former Shire CEO unaware of misconduct

FORMER Yarriambiack Shire Council Chief Executive Officer Ray Campling said he didn’t detect any wrongdoing by staff in his time leading management in the council. 

A report released last week identified the council was possibly in breach of several items of the Local Government Act over a period up until mid 2018. 

Mr Campling stepped down last April due to health issues, with CEO Jessie Holmes taking on the position. 

The former CEO who spent 15 years in the role said he was unaware of any mismanagement of council resources. 

“I was totally unaware, I would be dubious if council would be hiring out council equipment,” Mr Campling  said. 

He said the geographical size of the Yarriambiack Shire made it difficult to govern all levels of council. 

“Yarriambiack shire council covers an area of 7, 158 km²,” he said. 

“Obviously the governance definitely needs to be improved and the difficulty small rural councils face is  having sufficient assets and resources as a consequence of that. When I look at the policy’s and procedures, I probably should have put more emphasis and focus on that.

“The reality is, small councils basically can only achieve so much, and as a consequence of that I can put emphasis on community engagement, customer consultation and customer service and in hindsight I possibly should have directed my priorities towards some of the policy review and development areas.”

He admitted the governance needed attention, however he said with limited staff, he was satisfied with how much the council achieved during his 15 years. 

“Maintaining quality of assets of roads with limited staff, from my perspective overall I’m particularly proud of staff, councillors, the community and what I achieved in my time as CEO and I think that’s been identified by the council’s high level of customer satisfaction ratings,” he said. 

During his time in a senior management position he pointed out on occasion when a farmer would ask to have their driveways graded, it was possible staff accepted slabs of beer or a leg of ham as a gift. 

“I know two or three times a year grader drivers would grade a farmers drive way. There’s no payment exchange but possibly at the end of the year a ham or a slab of beer might be dropped off for the staff,” Mr Campling said. 

He said these actions are a result of the mentality of a “community orientated council”. 

“But from  my perspective that’s a consequence of being a community orientated council. I would assume, and I can’t say categorically it would occur in other councils. Common sense would, from my knowledge, I would say it would only occur two or three times a year.

Mr Campling said he believes the current council with Mayor Massey, CEO Jessie Holmes and other representatives will remedy all the issues effectively. 

“I believe the report identifies issues that definitely need to be rectified and I believe with those issues, I’ve got the confidence CEO Jessie Holmes and the Mayor Graeme Massey have the ability to address those matters and even improve the services the council provides the community. I think what the report identified is accepted.”

Trialling times  

Council are in the process of creating an action plan, which will address over 52 recommendations made in the Local Government Inspectorate Report. 

The plan is set to be made publicly available before the end of 2019. 

Mayor Massey said lack of oversight caused many of these internal issues, but they’re working hard to rectify that. 

“We’ve really got to convince people we’re taking this extremely seriously,” Cr Massey said. 

“Management involved in council when these activities and allegations were made are no longer working for council. The people who were able to carry out activities did so without clear direction, management and oversight.”

He said keeping up to date with current forms of policy and governance was not met. 

“Most of the measures are in governance were probity matters, which is a failure to comply with deadlines and failing to update policies,” he said.

“We are genuinely aiming to accomplish all recommendations that have been made by the Inspectorate and we hope to have an action plan out by Christmas to show everyone we’re taking this seriously.”