Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Grand Prix promotion

So spends ratepayers money in race for reelection next year

John So came under fire for what is seen as misuse of council funds to help promote John So in the lead to next years Lord Mayor Race.

Two weeks ago John So unilaterally authorised the expenditure of $100,000 of un-budgeted funding. It was only after complaints from fellow councillors that john So was forced to hold a special council meeting to seek approval of the extraordinary payment.

Cr Clarke has come out criticizing the deal struck between the Lord Mayor and the Grand Prix corporation as a means of John So securing a prominent role in this years Grand prix event in return for the City Council agreeing to foot the $100,000 bill for the extravaganza promo.

Jon So reputation as "the man that can not say No" continues unabated.

Council funds used to promote So, say critics
Clay Lucas, The Age
February 27, 2007

LORD Mayor John So used council money to buy a prominent media role in this week's Grand Prix warm-up in Carlton, according to his Town Hall critics.

A draft contract between Melbourne City Council and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, obtained yesterday by The Age, shows a condition of the council's $100,000 sponsorship of Saturday's Ferrari Festival was that the Lord Mayor be guaranteed a prominent role.

"Is sponsorship of an event like this meant to be about promoting the City of Melbourne or the Lord Mayor?" said Cr Fraser Brindley.

"The State Government sponsors plenty of events, but does Steve Bracks get a guarantee to speak?" he said.

On Saturday, 60 vintage Ferraris and a Formula One car will drive down Lygon Street, to promote the Grand Prix on March 18.

Leaked internal emails show that council officers demanded in December that Cr So be given a role in Saturday's event if it were to go ahead.

The council also requested that, as part of the sponsorship deal, the Lord Mayor and his chief executive, David Pitchford, get tickets to the Grand Prix's $2970-a-head Paddock Club — touted on the event's website as "the ultimate in corporate hospitality".

The deal was drafted in January — a month before councillors other than Cr So or his deputy, Gary Singer, were told about the event. The contract also guarantees Cr Singer "an official role at the launch".

Cr Peter Clarke said the sponsorship was proof council funds were being used to promote John So. "This smacks of buying media opportunities," Cr Clarke said.

Cr So and his embattled chief executive, whose contract is up for negotiation, earlier this month decreed that Melbourne City Council sponsor the event — despite internal advice that the council could not afford it.

No other councillors were told about the deal until February 6, despite Cr So and his chief executive having agreed to it in December.

The Lord Mayor last night said he had not "bought" media opportunities, arguing that officers must have negotiated media opportunities for him without consulting him.

"I am passionate about promoting Melbourne — I have no other motives," Cr So said.

The internal council emails also reveal that it was negotiating with VicRoads over a 100 km/h drive-through for the Formula One car in the event.

Grand Prix chief executive Tim Bamford and Cr Singer have repeatedly denied their organisations had discussed a speed limit of 100 km/h for the Formula One car.

Pitchford pitches for renewal of his contract

Council to decide tonight CEO's future

Melbourne City Council's beleaguered lack-luster CEO , David Pitchford, will tonight put0foward his application to have his contract renewed. Under the p[revisions of the local Government Act the Council must decide whether to renew Pitchford's contract or call for fresh applications. if the later option is chosen Pitchford would have to put his name forward to consideration with any other applicants.

The City Council is said to not be overall impressed with David Pitchford's performance.

To make matters worst for Melbourne's incumbent CEO Scott Chapman, is an insider that is busy campaigning away to have a chance at ousting the CEO and taking his job. Melbourne CEO receives a $300,000 remuneration package plus additional benefits.

There has been rumors floating around the town hall for some time now that David Pitchford has been casting his net to see if there are any other opening around.

Mean while the numbers are being converted in what could be an upset to John So.

It could be that the City Council resolves to renew Pitchford's contract one year to allow it more time to finalize arrangements. A similar arrangement was made with Micheal Malouf to allow Malouf to be seen to have exited on his own terms. Mr Malouf eventually found a position with the Carlton Football Club but as it turns out his tenure there is not looking good and there is talk that he too will be looking at an early retirement.

All will become clearer hopefully later tonight.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mike Hill Exposed

Local Government guru stands to make millions

Mike Hill of LGVA fame and Beau of former City of Melbourne - one term councillor, Lorna Pit, stands to make Millions of dollars in a highly questionable land deal/housing development.

A must read

Following on from the Sunday Herald Sun article by Chris Tinkler

Andrew Landeryou, The Other Cheek has published an excellent expose of Mike Hill.

Our dealings with Mike Hill also have demonstrated that he is a man of questionable ethics and lacking talent. Looks like Mike Hill is cashing in on his many years as defacto President of the Republic of Morland as his retirement nears.

Monday, February 12, 2007

John So $100,000.00 bankrupt fast ride

Ron Walker extracts ratepayers' money from Lord Mayor without authority

Extraordinary revelations John So has on his own volition without approval from the City Council allocated $100,000 to fund Ron Walker's Grand Prix extravaganza.

Deal done behind closed doors without City Council approval

There is ongoing concern as to the legality of John So - "Who can not say No" deal. Issues such as permission to close off public streets, security and public liability are still unresolved.

City Council offers in December last year had rejected approaches made by the Grand Prix Organization for the City Council to fund the $100,000 John So extravaganza.

John So has overstepped his authority. The State Government, the State Ombudsman and State Auditor General must investigate to reassure ratepayers that the Lord Mayor's has acted within the terms of his authority. Calls by Cr Clarke and other City Councillors must not fall on death ears.

All ready the City Council's projected income is $4 Million Dollars below expected revenue.

The allocation of 100,000 for this event is not included in the City Council's budget. Other programs and events seeking public funding will have to be sacrificed to make ends meet.

If it turns out John So has acted improper then he should resign forthwith.

The City Council meets tomorrow to consider this issue. It is unclear if this matter will be discussed on open public session.

So $100,000 Grand Prix deal riles council
Sourek: The Age
Clay Lucas
February 12, 2007

JOHN So has reinforced his reputation as the Lord Mayor who cannot say no, especially when Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker pays a visit to Town Hall.

A report into Melbourne City Council's deal to sponsor next month's Grand Prix warm-up in Lygon Street has found that the Lord Mayor unilaterally decreed that $100,000 in funding be found for the event.

Cr So's decision to use public funds to pay for the Ferrari promotion came despite council officers having already rejected the Grand Prix Corporation's overtures for funding.

The Lord Mayor pledged the sponsorship after a meeting with Mr Walker and Grand Prix boss Tim Bamford on January 23.

But council officers told the Grand Prix Corporation in December that the council could not afford to fund the Lygon Street Ferrari Festival.

No other councillors were consulted before Cr So told chief executive David Pitchford — whose $300,000 contract is up for renewal next month — to find $100,000 in funding for the event.

"This is a deal done behind closed doors," said Cr Peter Clarke, who yesterday called for an Ombudsman investigation into the sponsorship.

"There is only one place to allocate public money like this: in a public forum. How many other times has public money has been allocated in this way?"

Finance chairman Brian Shanahan was also dismayed that council money was being spent on an event for the Grand Prix Corporation. "We are around $4 million down on our expected parking revenue. We should be avoiding expenditures like this, especially when the Grand Prix can pay for it," he said.

Cr So, who is overseas, did not comment yesterday. But Mr Pitchford issued a statement saying there had been "no abuse of power".

Mr Walker yesterday said it had been "right and proper" for him to pay a visit to the Lord Mayor. "When there are issues to be sorted out, the chairman of the (Grand Prix) corporation and the Lord Mayor sit down and try to work it out," Mr Walker, said heaping praise on Cr So. "He is one of the best lord mayors we have ever had."

The Ferrari Festival will feature a parade of vintage Ferrari cars and a formula one racing car.

At a special meeting of council tomorrow to decide whether the event will go ahead, the father of Damian Cooper — who died last month after being struck down by a car on Lygon Street — will attend to plead with councillors to lower the Ferrari parade's 60 km/h speed limit.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

VEC avoids accountability and disclosure

Detailed results of the State Election missing

The Victorian Electoral Commission has responded to our Freedom of Information request seeking copies of the "below-the-line-preference" data files, summary reports and additional information. Information was sent by the Victorian Electoral Commission to the wrong address and not the contact information outline in the Freedom of Information application.

The Victorian Electoral Commission in administering the FOI request has possible breached the provisions of the Victorian Electoral Act and or Privacy Act. A complaint associated with the Victorian Electoral Commissions handling of the application has been forwarded tho The Victorian Privacy Commission for consideration and review.

Access to the information requested is still outstanding.

The Victorian Electoral Commission went to extra-ordinary length and considerable expense in printing out in hard copy most of the information that was provide as opposed to just copying the information and forwarding it in electronic format. Why? we fail to understand but I am sure a few more trees died in vein as a result. We accept no responsibility for the VEC actions in this respect as we had anticipated and expected that the information would be provided in electronic format. Some people would be forgiven in thinking that the VEC provided the information in hard copy format in order to prevent its distribution, collation and data analysis. That might not be far off the mark. It is difficult to say but efficient and cost saving it was not. As the information was sent to the wrong address we have requested that the VEC re-forward copies of their response in electronic format this time. Saving time and money.

The Victorian Electoral Commission had responded to the FOI request in part only they failed to provided copies of all the information requested.

Missing are:

1. Copies of the below the line data preference data files as requested - No response given.

Copies of below the line preference data was provided free of charge during the 1999, 2002 an 2004 Melbourne City Council Elections. This information is readily available and would be no more then 1mb for each electorate and would take approx. 2 mins to copy per file and this information should be published on the Victorian Electoral Commission's web site.

Without access to the below the line data files it is impossible to effectively scrutinise of verify the results of the election.

The below the line preference data is a public document and precedence has been set in a ruling of the Victorian Civil Appeals Tribunal requiring that this information be made available.

2. Copies of all summary count sheets. (Although this information has been obtained via a third party - copies published on my web site http://melbcity.topcities.com/) Missing from the VEC responce data are copies of the summary distribution report of the preliminary count.

3. Copies of polling centers return summary results information for the legilsative Council (Upper-house) - similar information detailing polling place results in relation to lower house electorates was published by the VEC on their Internet web site.

The Victorian electoral commission has claimed that the cost of providing this information would be in excess of $600.00 which is very dubious and highly questionable.

The information is stored in electronic format and the cost of copying that information would be less then $2.00.

Polling place data for the Legislative Council is normally available and published on election night and updated through the count.

In the 2006 State Election the Victorian Electoral Commission failed to make this information available instead they only provided an electorate wide summary only. (The AEC provides senate results statistics broken down to polling places)

Access to the polling place summary data is fundamental in providing a check and balance as to the number of ballot papers issued and returned.

There were a number of substantial errors recorded during the conduct of the count of the Victorian State Election that had this information been readily available could have and should have been avoided. A quick summary of the polling place returns should have altered the Victorian Electoral Commission that a number of ballot papers had been missing or overstated prior to the distribution of any preferences. This information is still outstanding.

4. The Victorian Electoral Commission has provided limited information on the certification of software used to conduct the Victorian State Election count. Copies of certification certificates have been provided (but not yet received - due to the VEC mistake in addressing their response) for the electronic 'Kiosk' voting centres and the algorithm used in the calculation of the proportional representation results.

Missing is the detailed supporting certification documentation, reports and certification of the actual software related to the data-entry, front end, data storage and reporting software that utilises the algorithm used. Either the software used by the Victorian Electoral Commission has not been fully certified of the Victorian Electoral Commission has withheld access to this information.

In summary

The Victorian Electoral Commission again is seeking to avoid open and public disclose of the detailed results of the 2006 Victorian State Election.

A number of serious errors in the counting of the election have occurred and questions related to the discrepancy in the number of total votes record between the preliminary count and the recount in Western Metropolitan region have north been fully explained or verifiable based on the public documentation provided.

We are informed that copies of the below the line data files were not made available to scrutineers.

There is a discrepancy of over 450 ballot papers between the preliminary count and the recount. Without access to the polling place return data and the below the line preference data files, as requested, it is impossible to verify the results of the election .

It is fundamental that our public elections are open and transparent and subject to independent review and analysis.

With the utilisation of electronic computer based technology all relevant information and data files must be readily available to scrutineers and the public.

One can only ask


The actions of the Chief Electoral Commissioner and the Victorian Electoral Commission continues to bring 2006 Victorian State Election into disrepute.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Fringe Benefits stripped

Melbourne City Council rejects out of pocket expense payments for the hiring of prostitutes

Melbourne City Council CEO, David Pitchford, bowing to pressure form ratepayers outraged at recent revelations that the City Council was paying out-of-pocket-expenses for the hire of prostitutes occurred during fact finding missions.

The city Council will now seek to hand over the job to the State Government following revelations that the Council had funded staff paying for prostitutes services.

The report in the Age newspaper (Copy below) states "There are fears in the council that dropping the practice could lead to a proliferation of illegal brothels in the city centre".

Swanston Street, Melbourne's premier boulevard, home to the City Council itself has long been the location and establishment of Adult entertainment venues which the Council has failed to close down.

It is understood that the City Council staff are frequent visitors to various adult entertainment venues around town. One popular venue was the tavern at the corner of Russel Street and Little Collins Street (just up the road from Council House 1 and 2) where many Councillor Staff could be found during and after work hours.

The announcement by David Pitchford will now mean that Council Staff, and hopefully Councillors, will not be able to claim sex services as an out-of-pocket-expense and expect the ratepayers to pick up the tab. (It is unclear if the costs of additional services was included in a former City Councillor's hotel expenses on his visit in 2003 to Melbourne's sister City St. Petersburg. The cost of accommodation was $800.00 a night)

Ratepayers should not be expected to fund such extra-curricular activities.

The money already paid out should be refunded and the person in the Council administration that approved the payment of expenses related to the hiring of sex workers should be stripped of their authority and summarily dismissed.

Council drops brothel sex spies
Clay Lucas
February 6, 2007

MELBOURNE City Council will no longer pay for sex.

The council is set to dump its policy, revealed last month, of sending private investigators into illegal brothels to have sex with prostitutes.

At least six Melbourne councils last month confirmed they had paid private investigators to visit illegal brothels as a method of obtaining evidence.

The private investigators — who were claiming the sex as expenses, on top of their hourly billing fee — would swear affidavits for councils that they had received sexual services from a prostitute at the property.

The affidavit would then be used in court action by the council as proof the premises was breaching planning laws.

Last night, chief executive David Pitchford issued a short statement saying Melbourne City Council would stop the practice.

Council officers would "review existing practices in relation to the use of private investigators in actions against illegal brothels", he said.

It is believed Lord Mayor John So, overseas until next week and not available for comment, is behind the policy change.

Cr Peter Clarke, who discussed the issue with the Lord Mayor last month, confirmed Cr So had opposed employing investigators to gather evidence.

"John has agreed to ask the State Government to change the Prostitution Control Act so that Consumer Affairs Victoria are doing this enforcement, not us," Cr Clarke said.

There are fears in the council that dropping the practice could lead to a proliferation of illegal brothels in the city centre.

Legal advice to the council said using private investigators to gather evidence against illegal brothels was a "watertight" way to win court cases. In cases against illegal brothels where private investigators were employed to gather evidence that sexual services were being provided, the council consistently won. The council usually had costs awarded, meaning the illegal operator pays all expenses and ratepayers are not out of pocket.

The Australian Adult Entertainment Association, which works for the legal sex industry, has long claimed there is a proliferation of illegal brothels operating in Victoria.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Training Snedden

Billy's daughter gets Council to fund party politics

The Age today has reported that Liberal Party Councillor Fiona Sneden coaching lessons. State MP Louise Asher's former chief of Staff, Brett Barton, was paid $5,600 to advise Cr Sneden. Councillor Sneden's expenses were made known following publication of the the City of Melbourne's Councillor expense.

Missing from the councillor expense statements are costs related to Councillor's allowances and additional expenses that the council has not disclosed. Creative accounting and hidden costs are an art form when it comes to the corrupt Council administration.

It appears that the Council administration, having been caught out, has gone back and modified past expense statements to include expenses that were not previously reported. Under Council guidelines all expenses should be finalised "acquitted" within one month of the expenses occurring. review of the published statements indicate that the summary results published by the City Council are false and incorrect. (It looks as though the Council Goverance/Finance department can not add up correctly).

Questions are still outstanding with the Council administration filing to respond to previous correspondence highlighting a number of issues identified in relation to the accuracy of Council's expense and travel statements.

Last year the City Council was subject to an Ombudsman investigation that showed up similar problems in relational to the City Councils accounting and administration. A number of Council staff reigned and or were allocated alternative employment following the Ombudsman inquiry. Former City Council's Legal Officer Alison Lyon resigned and Linda Weatherson as been removed from her role as Council governance director. Ms Weatherson was implicated in the "Acquittal" scandal related to a previous cover-up of undisclosed Councillor expense in 2003.

Despite promises made by the City Councillors, Melbourne's City Council's "Car Fee City policy", costs related to John So and Gary Singers Council funded Limousines still do not appear in the Councillor expense statements.

It is estimated that the associated missing costs adds around $2,500,00 per year to the costs of servicing our City fathers and daughters. Including in this estimate is the costs of Internal catering and the Council's free open booze bar, the later which the Age reported as possibly contributing to Cr Sneden's $1,000 in fines and a loss of her driving licence for 4 years.

Responsible Governance - No Way.

The above graph shows consolidated reported Councillor's expenses for the mid term of the current Council Dec 2004 to Dec 2006 (Including the adjustments made to the 'dodgy' July to October 2006 statements)

City council paid Liberal staffer $5600 to mentor Cr Sneden
February 2, 2007
Source: The Age

MELBOURNE City Council has paid $5600 for Liberal Party blue-blood Fiona Sneden to receive mentoring from a Liberal Party strategist.

The payments, of around $220 a week over the past six months, were paid to Brett Barton, former chief of staff to Liberal MP Louise Asher.

Cr Sneden last night defended the use of ratepayers' money to pay for professional mentoring, saying it was about getting better results for the council, not personal improvement.

"Professional mentoring is all about me being better prepared to deal with issues that face my constituents," Cr Sneden said.

Cr Sneden said Mr Barton provided her with "leadership coaching", not counselling.

"The coaching means understanding and how to deal with aspects of council. It means basically anything that I need mentoring for.

"I have a part-time secretary but I felt that there was not the support or the mentoring that was required," said Cr Sneden, who argued that councillors at the City of Melbourne were not adequately supported.

"It is considered part-time employment and Town Hall does not provide any expert advice."

Her adviser Mr Barton has worked for several high-profile Liberals, most recently Liberal major projects spokesman David Davis, in the lead-up to last year's state election.

Mr Barton could not be reached for comment last night. But Louise Asher said Mr Barton was an experienced adviser with "a good political nose".

A list of councillor expenses released by Melbourne City Council this week also revealed that, in 2006, Cr Sneden claimed $35,072 in expenses — $20,000 more than any of eight other Melbourne councillors over the same period.

Former lord mayor Kevin Chamberlin said it was a disgrace that the city council was paying for its elected representatives to be trained to be more effective councillors.

"This is a direct result of the election system put in place by the Bracks Government that was deliberately designed to get elected poor quality councillors," Mr Chamberlin said. "The constituents have well and truly been paying for it for a long time, and not just in money."

Cr Sneden, 50, is the daughter of former federal Liberal leader Sir Billy Sneden.

Last year she pleaded guilty in the Melbourne Magistrates Court to drink driving.

She was fined $1000 and lost her licence for four years.