Sindt hearing to head to VCAT

Formal complaints against outspoken Latrobe City Councillor Christine Sindt will be referred to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.

The complaints were lodged by her fellow councillors Peter Gibbons, Sharon Gibson and Sandy Kam earlier this year.

Documentation seen by The Express reveals Cr Sindt formally requested the referral to VCAT when she faced a councillor conduct panel at a hearing in Moe on 25 July.

The independent, two-person panel was appointed in June by the Municipal Association of Victoria to examine whether Cr Sindt has breached the councillor code of conduct.

Cr Sindt told The Express last week she wanted the matter heard before VCAT as it was an open forum, unlike the panel hearings, which are closed to the public.

“I was not prepared to be in an environment which was not public,” Cr Sindt said.

Under the Local Government Act 1989, the respondent can apply for the matter to be referred to VCAT at any time before the panel makes a determination and if this occurs, the panel must make the referral.

The summary of panel hearing proceedings also states Cr Sindt applied for the panel’s formation to be dismissed, but this was rejected on the grounds she had declined the invitation to participate in mediation.

Cr Sindt also applied to be allowed legal representation.

Under conduct panel hearing rules, there is no right to representation, except if the panel considers it is necessary to ensure the hearing is conducted fairly.

The panel decided Cr Sindt was capable of representing herself and the hearing would be conducted fairly.

The summary documentation does not detail the nature of the complaints against Cr Sindt.

The Express understands at this stage the applicants intend to pay for their own legal representation at VCAT.

Cr Sindt said she was unsure at this stage in the process how her legal representation would be paid for. Similar to the conduct panel’s powers, if VCAT makes a finding of misconduct it can order a councillor to make an apology or take a leave of absence for up to two months.

Crs Gibbons, Gibson and Kam declined to comment at this time.