Central Goldfields Shire Mayor expresses disappointment and shock over charges

Disappointed: Central Goldfields Shire mayor Geoff Lovett.

Disappointed: Central Goldfields Shire mayor Geoff Lovett.

Mayor of Central Goldfields Shire Geoff Lovett has expressed personal dismay and anger following the revelation the council’s chief executive officer is facing 41 charges brought by the Local Government Inspections and Compliance Inspectorate.

"I met with Mark yesterday morning and before I was officially notified he in fact told me that it was imminent that charges were going to be laid,” Cr Lovett said

"There had been an investigation going on ... but to actually hear the words it came as a very large surprise."

CEO Mark Johnston has been charged with offences relating to obtaining financial advantage by deception, conflict of interest and false accounting.

It's fair to say I am shocked and disappointed. I'm shocked, disappointed and angry.

CGSC mayor Geoff Lovett.

Johnston sent a message to CGSC staff yesterday denying the charges.

“Staff may be aware that charges have been laid against me by the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate and there will be media coverage,” wrote Johnston.

“I vigorously deny the charges and they will be strongly defended.”

Cr Lovett has called an in-camera special meeting of Central Goldfields councillors this Wednesday at 5pm to discuss the issue and the executive governance of the council in the immediate future

He says he decided to close the meeting to the public so that councillors would feel confident in expressing their opinions.

“I want every councillor to have a free and frank, open discussion”, said Cr Lovett.

Asked about his reaction to the charges against the CEO, Cr Lovett expressed dismay.

“It's fair to say I am shocked and disappointed. I'm shocked, disappointed and angry,” said Cr Lovett.

“That’s why I have called this meeting. All options will be on the table.”

Cr Lovett said he expected council will have a position on how to deal with the situation by Thursday morning, and would issue a full statement then.

Other Central Goldfields councillors contacted by The Courier either declined to comment, referred all comment to the mayor, or did not return calls.

Central Goldfields Shire had a monitor appointed by the Andrews Government in October 2016 for three months and has recently restructured its Audit Advisory Committee, which monitors compliance, ethics and fraud protection within council.

Johnston is listed to appear at the Maryborough Magistrates' Court on August 31.