A TRIP to Canberra this week by Mornington Peninsula Shire mayor Graham Pittock on top of him already spending more than $10,000 in “professional development” has again highlighted concerns about the vagueness of the councillor expenses policy.
Cr Pittock is rubbing shoulders with political leaders at this month’s National General Assembly from 19-22 June.
On Monday last week, council approved Cr Pittock’s request to attend, despite the mayor already having spent $10,091 on “professional development” this term.
Cr Pittock will attend as an official representative of the shire at the estimated cost of $2678 allocated to his conferences and seminars account.
A report detailing the request noted that legal advice from Maddocks Lawyers in March this year found that the council’s expenses policy is “not clear” and that the $4000 annual councillor allocation should be used as “an example” rather than a capped figure.
As a result of the legal advice, council’s governance manager Joe Spiteri said council will review the councillor expenses policy before 1 July.
Cr Hugh Fraser quizzes council management over his belief that the legal advice was requested by Cr Antonella Celi, who was under fire at the time for her own expenses budget blowout.
However, when CEO Carl Cowie was asked whether he received a request from Cr Celi he replied: “This one was from me”.
Mr Spiteri also denied receiving a request by Cr Celi to seek legal advice on councillors’ expenses, although he did recall receiving “emails of concern”.
“No I didn’t. I recall having a conversation with the CEO to clarify our position.” Mr Spiteri said.
He said the legal advice was “general” in nature and applied to all councillors equally.
After the meeting Cr Pittock said he hoped to network with politicians and other local government officials at the assembly, which is expected to be attended by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition leader Bill Shorten.
The title of this year’s assembly, which will focus on ways local government around the world is being “innovative”, is Partners in Innovative and Prosperous Australia.