Former Central Goldfields Shire CEO Mark Johnston has agreed to plead guilty to five charges relating to the alleged misuse of a corporate credit card between August 2009 and September 2013, as well as obtaining financial advantage by deception, and false accounting.
The matter was adjourned to December 12, 2018 during a special mention hearing in Maryborough Magistrates Court on Thursday. Johnston did not appear in court and was represented by his lawyer Russell Kelly from Bendigo.
A media release from the Local Government Inspectorate (LGI) chief municipal inspector David Wolf stated ‘the matter is listed for the defendant to formally enter a plea of guilty on this date.’
Johnston may reserve his right to change his plea before the hearing.
The matter had been scheduled for an eight-day hearing in November this year. It will now go to a half-day hearing on December 12 with the reduction in the number of charges.
The LGI had originally proposed 67 charges against Johnston, which were later consolidated to 38 charges presented to court. A further submission was made to consolidate the number of charges to streamline the prosecution case.
Johnston will now face five charges pertaining to each year between 2009 and 2013.
A further hearing over two conflict of interest charges scheduled for June in Bendigo will now be heard in Maryborough in March 2019.
The revelations of executive mismanagement and misconduct at Central Goldfields Shire led to the dismissal of the elected council by the state local government minister Natalie Hutchins in August 2017. The council was replaced by an administrator and a new CEO. Mark Johnston had served as CEO of the shire since 1995.