The state’s local government watchdog has launched an investigation into the City of Greater Bendigo council.
Without detailing specifics, the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate provided a written response to the Bendigo Advertiser when asked if it was investigating breaches of confidentiality within the council.
“I can confirm that the inspectorate is currently undertaking an investigation in relation to Greater Bendigo City Council,” a spokesperson said.
The inspectorate investigates possible breaches of the Local Government Act by a councillor, senior council officer, or any person with a delegated responsibility or who is subject to the conflict of interest or electoral provisions within the act.
The spokesperson said the inspectorate deals with complaints or requests for investigation in strict confidence.
However, the Bendigo Advertiser has confirmed at least one instance of a breach of confidentiality.
In November last year, councillor Mark Weragoda was temporarily stood down by an independent panel for his actions relating to a drink driving incident earlier that year.
Councillor Helen Leach referred the matter to an independent conduct panel and its findings – of misconduct against Cr Weragoda and that he take a one-month leave of absence – were tabled at a council meeting on November 4.
The reasons for that decision were not made public. However, several confidential pages from the panel’s report were released via social media in the days following.
The City of Greater Bendigo confirmed to the Bendigo Advertiser the document was only issued to the nine City of Greater Bendigo councillors, the city’s chief executive officer and executive services manager as well as the minister for local government and the members of the independent panel.
The city also confirmed online publication of the reasons for the decision would constitute a breach of confidentiality.
If there is found to be a breach of confidentiality the outcomes can be anything from a warning to a court appearance with the punishment determined by the presiding magistrate.
The inspectorate can launch its own investigations or they can follow complaints from anyone including councillors, staff and members of the public. The inspectorate also receives referrals from other integrity agencies such as IBAC and Ombudsman Victoria.