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.

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