As the branch-stacking scandal widens, it is an irony not lost on local government workers that Adem Somyurek - the man designated to oversee councils - should be so embroiled in allegations of impropriety himself.
Council was corresponding directly with his office - the ministry for local government - on the actions it planned to take in the wake of the Ombudsman's report on Ballarat tabled in parliament last month.
The Courier understands councillors were gauging the likelihood of intervention following the "jobs for mates" findings released by the Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass last month.
Public trust will be well served by the fullest possible release of the findings.Victorian Local Government Association spokesperson
One retired councillor, speaking off the record as they didn't want to "muddy the waters", described the branch-stacking revelations from the joint investigation Age/ 60 Minutes investigation, as "staggering".
The Victorian Local Government Association (VLGA) has said it was "concerned" by the broadcast. In a statement, a spokesperson said: "Good government and governance in Victoria is poorly served by the behaviours described."
The VLGA said they supported an independent investigation by IBAC and the police, adding: "Public trust will be well served by the fullest possible release of the findings."
The spokesperson also referenced the abusive language used by Mr Somyurek while he was being covertly recorded. We... echo the comments made by the Hon Gabrielle Williams MP Minister for Women, that no matter who you are, no one deserves to be treated and abused in this way."
You have to wonder if the [local government] sector has been overseen objectivelyJohn Barnes, former mayor
Former Ballarat mayor John Barnes - who also worked as a senior council officer during the 1990s - said the allegations cast doubt on oversight of the local government sector.
"Somebody who shows such contempt for democracy, you wonder if he was a fit person to oversee the democracy that is closest to the people [at local government level]," he said. "You have to wonder if the sector has been overseen objectively."
Mr Barnes said the local government ministerial position should be held by someone who "prized democracy and due process."
Mr Somyurek had previously been a state government minister but had to step down following bullying accusations in 2015. He was reinstated to Mr Andrews' cabinet in 2018 as minister for local government and small business. Mr Somyurek's predecessor in the local government ministry was Marlene Kairouz, who also stood down from cabinet on Tuesday due to the branch-stacking allegations.
Another former council insider said that the local government minister would rarely become involved directly with senior municipal staff, apart from when councils were shown to be in noticeable trouble.
During his tenure, Mr Somyurek sacked Casey, Whittlesea and South Gippsland councils. He also oversaw the passage of the new local government act through Victorian parliament - although much of the legislation had been drafted prior to his appointment.
He said the bill was designed to help councils be "more accountable, democratic and responsive."
The new local government minister for Victoria is now Danny Pearson, the Labor MP for Essendon. The City of Ballarat declined to comment on Mr Somyurek's dismissal, as did the Ballarat mayor Cr Ben Taylor.
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