Report backlash

Those named in the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate audit of Latrobe City’s handling of the Moe revitalisation project hit back swiftly following the document’s release earlier this week.

Cr Peter Gibbons labelled the audit report “littered with mistakes and untruths”.

He sought to clarify a reference in the report to the fact his wife Cheryl Wragg had used his email address to make a submission to council regarding the Moe project, saying in a statement, it was his personal “family email”, not his council-provided address.

In two statements, Cr Gibbons took aim at Latrobe City chief executive Paul Buckley, who requested the independent audit, saying the contents of the document were a “done deal” between Mr Buckley and Acting Municipal Inspector Ross Millard to discredit him and fellow councillor Sharon Gibson.

“After it was organised and its terms of reference decided, Mr Buckley then advised councillors of his decision,” Cr Gibbons said.

“We were not allowed to meet with the inspectorate’s staff who prepared the audit document, not allowed to ask or receive questions.

“Taking up the councillor role doesn’t mean I accept that my family members can or should be vilified and lied about.”

Ms Wragg, a former office-bearer of the Moe and District Residents Association, said she was angry to see her name appear in the report in relation to previous freedom of information requests she had made to council.

“My permission and MADRA’s permission should have been sought before those details were used and released publicly,” Ms Wragg said.

She refuted a statement in the report that only four FOI requests were lodged with council in relation to the plan and all were from people connected with MADRA.

Ms Wragg provided The Express with two FOI requests made, not listed in the report, in relation to the project from Traralgon Community Development Association member, the late Bruce Bremner.

“Yesterday, I accorded Bruce’s family the decency of contacting them for their permission to release his FOIs,” Ms Wragg said.

Cr Gibson denied comments in the report she campaigned against the Moe revitalisation project and once elected, could be perceived to have made decisions about the project without an open mind.

“I have never said that I’m against it (the project),” Cr Gibson said.

“All I’ve ever done is have concerns about aspects of the plan including car parking.

“It just means I’m asking questions, I’m not against the whole project.”

She said she had raised concerns about inaccuracies in the report with Mr Buckley and the inspectorate but “nobody wants to take any ownership or do anything about it”.

Mr Buckley told The Express he provided councillors with contact details for the inspector carrying out the audit in April.

“This report has been prepared by the inspectorate and therefore any questions should be directed to the inspectorate,” Mr Buckley said.

He said improvements had been made in relation to the inspectorate’s advice about certain policies and procedures.