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.


Anonymous said...

Let's try a scenario:
Council aspirant Bright Spark runs for election in 2008. Bright Spark is successful and is elected by the people and declared councillor. Cr Bright Spark never having been involved in council, an absolute newbie, recognises after a year of working with the people that they need more training and development to better service the needs of residents and ratepayers.

Cr Bright Spark, searches and finds that there is a cluey individual by the name of Anthony Van Der Craats who has been hot on council's tails for years and understands council better than Cr Bright Spark.

Cr Bright Spark, only wanting to be better at the job, hires in mid 2009 Anthony Van Der Craats to mentor and provide leadership training. Cr Bright Spark pays Anthony Van Der Craats $220 per week to provide this mentoring and training.

Is it wrong to pay Anthony Van Der Craats for his skills and advice ?
Is it wrong to claim this as an expense related to council duties of Cr Bright Spark ?

I suggest that neither is wrong, despite the fact that the payment would be made to Anthony Van Der Craats and that some might see giving him anything let alone claiming an expense as being a bit rich.

So how is this different from the existing council and expense claims ?
I suggest there is no difference despite who the payment is made to.

MelbCity said...

anon:(Feb 3 9:51)

A convoluted example but there are many black holes in your theory.

First assuming Cr Snedden of any other councillor wanted to seek my advice (after all I am critical of most if not all our councillors and council administration) I most certainly would not accept any payment for the task asked of me.

It's a bit like former Cr Brennen seeking payment via the back door in his capacity as local administrator of ICLIE. Knowing full well the city council can not engage former councillors directly Cr Brennen sets himself up as a representative of an Environmental International NGO which in turn slugs the council for significant membership association fees and then talks the Greens Candidate and John So into having the City Council fund the executive costs of his third part enviro confest organization (of which Mr Brennan is a salaried officer). Its a back door approach to misappropriation of council funds via a highly questionable creative accounting exercise.

Sorry but I think if our councillors need training then it should come form a non-political professionally run organisations that have a fully certified syllabus and not some alternative means of transferring/laundering funds from ratepayer to Council to political party.

If the Liberal party, or even the Labor party for the fact, wants to provide candidate training then they should do it on their own initiative and own funding. What's next the Council will pay a candidate's campaign managers a consultancy fee?

Certainly not something I would support or endorse.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting that AVDC (you) see this scenario as being candidate training rather than professional development. Is AVDC the arbiter of what may be trully a independent and effective supplier of such services.

So honorable of AVDC not being prepared to accept a fee from Cr Bright Spark, even though they might see AVDC as the most effective to deliver such services rather than a bland scripted and outdated programme that AVDC would otherwise have Cr Bright Spark sign up to.

Council moves with the times and the we hope their management expertise also does the same. With the evolution and development of council, comes shifting goal posts and an adaptable supplier of such skills, and yes, even AVDC would be capable of providing this given the on going way that AVDC holds council and its outcomes in his heart of hearts.

So, if AVDC is not prepared to supply professional development services which are seen as necessary for Cr Bright Spark, ones which an AVDC has capabilities of delivering and quite rightly should attract remuneration, then other alternatives will have to be sought by Cr Bright Spark in 2009.

Some of the political organisations in this country including the Liberal Party continue to distance itself from direct involvement in local government. The ALP, not so much. This does not then mean that any members of such organisation should not be involved in local government or politics within a registered political organisation.

If it turns out that those who also have membership of a registered political organisation are the best to deliver such training and mentoring, then so be it.

Oh, by the way, we havent asked AVDC what political affiliation he might have in 2009, we just assumed he was the best and were prepared to pay accordingly. In the scheme of things, tell us where we can actually get such services on a wider scale at $220 per day. I would have thought such capabilities given the speciality would have cost alot more.

MelbCity said...

I would not except the contract. As simple as that. In pretty much as any person whop felt there was a conflict of interest. I would offer my advise free of charge. Good will. I guess if I wanted to launder my expertise I could work for Hawker and Britten. Again councillor training should be undertaken by a suitably qualified organisation with a recognised syllabus in order to receive councillor funding not just some payment VOA the back door. If Cr Brightspark needs and advisor and wants to pay them then they should seek authorisation under that category not hide the expense by claiming it to be training.

That's the sort of creative accounting I expect from the City Council administration.

I would not engage myslef in such corrupt practice.

Anonymous said...

The only coaching Snedden needs is on how to say no to that third glass of white wine. Why the ratepayers should subsidise this is a very good question.

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