Glen Eira Council blows $17k to solve councillor infighting

GLEN Eira Council has forked out $17,760 in its latest investigation into councillor infighting but the findings will be discussed behind closed doors.

Earlier this year barrister Frances O’Brien QC was appointed an as independent arbiter by mayor Neil Pilling following a tumultuous four-year council term, which came to a head at a citizenship ceremony in April.

Her findings, received by council early last week, will be kept secret until the July 19 council meeting and it is unclear if they will be released publicly.

“It will be considered as a confidential item (on July 19) as it pertains to privileged legal advice,” Glen Eira chief executive Rebecca McKenzie said.

“At the meeting the council will consider the report and determine what, if any, further action will be taken.”

Ms McKenzie said Glen Eira mayor Neil Pilling would make a public statement once the council passed a resolution on the matter.

In May, a council insider alleged Ms O’Brien was appointed to investigate a culture of bullying and intimidation among councillors.

Glen Eira’s latest expensive inquiry into councillor conduct follows a failed $27,000 bid in 2013 to reprimand Cr Oscar Lobo at a conduct panel.

Some of the incidents which could have come under investigation by Ms O’Brien include: Cr Jamie Hyams calling Cr Oscar Lobo a “f**kwit” at a citizenship ceremony in April attended by 200 people; Cr Lobo’s allegedly anti-Semitic slur at a December council meeting and a 2010 email councillor Michael Lipshutz sent to Cr Lobo asking him if he had worked for a bank linked to terrorists.

Ms O’Brien, a senior barrister with extensive experience in employment law and forensic examination of evidence, was one of three members of a commission established to examine workplace culture at Geelong Council earlier this year. The council was sacked in April.