‘Catastrophic governance failure’: Victorian council sacked following employee murder

Former council worker Andrew Robert Paterson is serving a minimum 21-year sentence over the murder of council operations manager Rick Devlin.

A country Victorian council will be sacked following a probe into the murder of a senior manager, who was gunned down by a disgruntled worker.

He wrongly believed Devlin was involved in a harassment campaign against him at work, although the men did not have day-to-day contact.

Events after the murder, governance concerns, flood mitigation efforts, construction of major infrastructure, the transportation of asbestos and other issues such as health and safety were also examined by a commission of inquiry into Moira Shire Council in northern Victoria.

On Tuesday, the state government introduced legislation to dismiss the council and appoint an administrator as recommended by the commission.

It is expected an election to replace the councillors will not take place until 2028.

Local Government Minister Melissa Horne described the report as deeply concerning.

“Councils must properly represent the communities they serve, and Moira residents deserve to have a council that puts their interests first,” Horne said in a statement.

The commission has referred evidence to the coroner about events related to the death of council operations manager Rick Devlin.

The commission report said there was good reason to think Devlin’s death may have been preventable and the environment of the Nathalia depot Paterson worked at was fundamentally unsafe.

“These events and their tragic outcomes represent, at many levels, a catastrophic governance failure,” the report stated.

It said the council’s senior executives should have been aware of risks at the depot since 2017, when an external investigator found evidence of a dysfunctional and a toxic culture.

The commission has also contacted the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission about two instances of alleged corrupt conduct.

The report found the governance of Moira Shire Council had deteriorated to such a level that it could no longer carry out its responsibilities under the Local Government Act.

Chief executive Clare Keenan said the organisation was focused on the health of those impacted by the report.

“We understand that the findings of the report may be confronting for our staff and their families, and concerning for our community,” Keenan said in a statement.

“Our priority continues to be the wellbeing of staff, and we have implemented measures to ensure they have support.”

An interim administrator will be appointed for three months, before a longer-term panel of administrators is found.

It is the sixth council sacked by the Andrews government since it came to power in 2014, while municipal monitors have also been appointed to observe and give advice at various times to Ararat, Frankston, Yarra, Strathbogie Shire, Wodonga and Darebin councils.

Source: 7News

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