Audit more of a ‘witch hunt’
Audit more of a ‘witch hunt’

An audit by the Department of Local Government has led to the sacking of the Shire of Ashburton’s chief executive and required its council to show why it shouldn’t be suspended.

A DLG spokesman said the probity and compliance audit report had been completed at the request of the council and would form part of a communication between Local Government Minister John Castrilli and the Shire.

In a media release last Thursday, Shire president Kerry White said council had resolved to dismiss chief executive Jeff Breen at the council meeting on Wednesday.

She said the action was “one of many necessary steps” to address findings in the probity report.

However, Mr Breen said while the report had issues that needed addressing, he said it was more of a “witch hunt” than a probity audit.

“There are some things that are non-compliant that are probably common practice across the State,” he said.

“Two people who worked for me are both ex-CEOs so it’s not like we didn’t have some depth of knowledge.

“There were things in there that were based on hearsay, there were things there that were interpretations of the (Local Government) Act that weren’t non-compliance issues…there were a few I would say relatively minor things that needed to be addressed, just as I suspected,” he said.

The report was finalised early this month and Mr Breen said he was stood aside on November 14 and given three days to respond to allegations drawn from the report.

Mr Breen said he was reinstated on November 20 before being given a summary dismissal on Wednesday 21 following a council meeting.

On Friday, Mr Breen received a formal letter dismissing him from his role as chief executive.

Mr Breen said he had been told by a number of “prominent people” throughout the past year that he’d “follow in the footsteps” of sacked Shire of Roebourne chief executive Collene Longmore.

He said he was keen for a probity audit, as the organisation had grown at an average annual rate of 40 per cent each year over the past seven years.

“(When) the probity audit was done there was no involvement of senior staff or myself,” he said.

“The report was provided to the minister without checking the facts, without verification of the recommendations.

“There are no allegations made in the report, but there are a number of recommendations.”

Mr Breen said the report went to Local Government Minister John Castrilli, who decided there should be a show cause to the council as to why it shouldn’t be suspended.

The deadline for the council to show cause was Friday, November 23.

When the Pilbara News spoke to Shire president Kerry White on Monday for additional comment she said she would wait for show cause notice from Mr Castrilli before commenting further.

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