Monday, December 04, 2006

Traffic congestion hits City Council

John So pays CEO huge inducement bonus for a bad job done

The Age newspaper today reports that the City of Melbourne is facing a traffic jam in processing thousands of complaints related to City Parking fines. Melbourne City Council and John So and his cohorts spend up big and continue to show no sign of fiscal restraint or responsibility. John So just can not say NO!

Meanwhile Melbourne's CEO, David Pitchford, was paid a bonus of $43,000.00 on top of his already high $300,000 per year salary. For what? Melbourne City Council was earlier this year raided by the State Ombudsman department who's investigation found that the City Council's administration was corrupt and that the Council was using traffic fines as a means of revenue fund raising and not as a deterrent for illegal parting. Council's Grey Ghosts had a quota 'bounty' system going on and Melbourne's motorists where the target of this corrupt practice which the CEO David Pitchford was ultimately responsible. Ratepayers will surely be happy to know that the CEO has received such a huge bonus when the City Council's administration continues to bring the City into disrepute.

The City Council's Governance department acting on advise and instruction of the former City Council Legal Officer, Alison Lyons, challenged, in attempt of avoiding accountability, the legal right of the Ombudsman to review Council's records. Ms Lyons reigned from the City Council prior to the Ombudsman report which was highly critical of the Council's administration.

The problems facing the City Council for so great that the State Government had to step in and legislate to put a stop to the ongoing abuse and corruption with the City Council.

Given the poor performance of the City Council over the last year one has to ask why was the CEO paid $43,000 bonus on top of his already excessive salary?

Reports in from our spies in the Governance Department at town hall tell us that John So, in a highly questionable move, tried to awarded himself and his deputy two votes for each elected city councilor's one vote, tipping the scale in favor of the Lord Mayor and controversial Deputy Lord Mayor Garry Singer. Gary Singer was found by his peers earlier this year to have acted improper in relation to staff salaries and financial mismanagement of various trust accounts under his care in his role as a trust manager and legal officer of the courts.

Our City Councilors having balked at the notion of the Lord Mayor and his Deputy being given two votes to their one thought they did well by cutting the Lord Mayor and his deputy down to one and a half votes each. (We still think that is way too much and fail to see why the Lord Mayor should receive more votes then any other elected City Councillor. One vote one value. There are questions as to the legality of this move) This "weighting" of the votes gives the Lord Mayor and his Deputy much more say in the pending CEO's review which is due early next year. Stacking the review in his favour.

Council may lose thousands in parking fines
Clay Lucas,
City Reporter
December 4, 2006

Source: The Age
HUNDREDS of people are escaping parking fines from the Melbourne City Council because its employees are buckling under the weight of thousands of objections to tickets.

Disgruntled staff within the council's parking and traffic branch say there are as many as 15,000 outstanding objections to tickets. Under State Government laws introduced on July 1, the council has 90 days to prove a fine is valid if a motorist objects.

In 941 cases the council has already run out of time and could end up writing off as much as $51,000 in parking fines.

In April, the council was stung by a State Ombudsman's report that raised allegations of incompetence and bullying in its parking and traffic branch. The Ombudsman is still investigating claims that a whistleblower within the branch has been treated badly by the council because of the report.

The council denies there are 15,000 outstanding parking fine objections, although it concedes there are at least 4500 letters of objection, and that it was taking about 65 days to process each objection letter.

"This is well within the 90-day limit," said acting chief executive, Linda Weatherson.

But staff inside the council branch, who did not want to be named for fear they would be sacked, said this was untrue.

Anyone objecting to a parking ticket could get off because the council had so many objections to work through, they said.

Lord Mayor John So said the council was working hard to lower the time it took to respond to objections.

"No one is going to get away from paying," he said.

Many other inner-city councils are struggling to meet the 90-day limit, but the sheer volume of objections to parking tickets that Melbourne City Council gets is pushing its 12-person objections team to their limit.

Ms Weatherson said one parking objection officer was working through 1443 objections. In the three months to October 1, the council handed out 114,000 parking fines and received 10,500 written objections.

It collected $26 million from parking fines last financial year.

The news comes on top of council figures showing that income from parking fines plummeted by $1.2 million in the past three months, compared with last year.

The council said petrol prices meant fewer cars coming to the CBD. But the fall in parking fines coincides with parking officers having been forced to drop a daily quota of 30 tickets, exposed by the Ombudsman's report in April.

Chief executive David Pitchford is under pressure to fix the troubled branch of the council, after the report painted a shambolic picture, citing "morale problems, absenteeism and complaints of bullying and harassment".

Mr Pitchford was last week awarded a $43,000 performance bonus on top of his $300,000 annual salary.

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