Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Pitchford's contact up for renewal

It is time for a clean out and restoration of good governance

Melbourne has not had an effective CEO since the departure of Elizabeth Proust and Andy Friend. The quality of Governance has been in serious decline ever since. the rot set in under Micheal Malouf and Melbourne's current CEO has done little to restore confidence in the Council administration. His contract and time is up.

It was not long ago we reported that the City of Melbourne was not happy with CEO David Pitchford's appointment. We also made mention of information provided to us by the a source in the Councils governance department that David Pitchford's time was up following the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. Well our sources have been proven right. Information published in the Age Newspaper highlight the concern and pressure David is facing. The focus of the article is based on Melbourne City Council's fraudulent activities exposed by the State Ombudsman. There is much more to David's demise then the Traffic Infringement issue. Basically Kevin Chamberlain was right when he expressed concern over David's appointment. He was not the man for the job. His inability to maintain an open and transparent Government has been of ongoing concern. The City Council is caught up in corruption and cover-up.

Earlier this year we saw former City of Melbourne's legal advisor, Alison Lyons, resign from the City of Council in the lead-up to the State Ombudsman's report. David Pitchford has refused to make details of Councillors travel, free booze and catering expenses public. He has gone out of his way to avoid accountability and disclosure. The report of the Ombudsman is damming and certainly justification in its own to deny Pitchford and renewal of his contract. The City Council needs more reform and clean out. The Council is internal cultural or ongoing avoidance and cover up. It is time that the City administration is brought to account. If the CEO is incapable of addressing community concerns then the Council must act to have him replaced along with the manager of Council's Governance department who should also be under review..

City chief under pressure of Ombudsman probe
By Rachel Kleinman
August 1, 2006
Pressure mounted on Melbourne City Council's chief executive yesterday as the State Ombudsman launched a fresh investigation into the council's traffic and parking branch.

Councillors will decide next month on the future of David Pitchford's $250,000-a-year contract.

One councillor, who did not wish to be named, told The Age yesterday that Mr Pitchford was under "significant pressure" as a result of State Ombudsman George Brouwer's new inquiry. "We are absolutely sick of being kept in the dark about the ramifications of these issues," the councillor said.

"Councillors are concerned that the CEO does not appear to be on top of this issue."

A colleague, who also refused to be named, said councillors received an email from Mr Pitchford's office yesterday morning, which announced that the Ombudsman would hold a fresh investigation into the parking and traffic branch, under the terms and conditions of the Whistleblowers Act. They were directed not to discuss the matter and were not told about the extent of the investigation.

Mr Brouwer's first investigation, concluded in April, found that the council had issued thousands of dollars worth of unauthorised parking tickets between 2002 and 2005.

His report pointed to morale problems, and complaints of bullying and harassment within the branch. That inquiry was triggered early last year by a whistleblower.

It found that senior staff had ignored warnings from lawyers about the unauthorised issuing of fines and prosecution of motorists who failed to pay.

Responding to Mr Brouwer's report in April, Mr Pitchford said: "It is most unfortunate the practices, albeit in good faith, were allowed to continue for such a long period."

The council has drawn up a 46-point plan to deal with the State Ombudsman's concerns, and says most of them are already being implemented.

But the new development has put Mr Pitchford's performance back in the spotlight. His existing contract expires in September 2007, but councillors could extend it until September 2009. They must decide by next month, or begin a search for a new chief executive.

Speaking off the record to The Age this year, several councillors have consistently refused to back the performance of Mr Pitchford since his 2003 appointment.

A spokeswoman for Mr Pitchford yesterday refused to comment about the new investigation.

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