Ararat Rural City mayor Glenda McLean gathers councillors as pressure mounts over move to Queensland

ARARAT mayor Glenda McLean has asked fellow councillors to meet with her ahead of the ordinary council meeting on Tuesday as pressure mounts for her to step down.

A spokesperson for Queensland’s North West Hospital and Health Service has confirmed to Fairfax Media that Cr McLean is now working for the Mount Isa organisation, located 2600 kilometres from Ararat Rural City.

Ararat Rural City deputy mayor Gwenda Allgood said on Friday that she had not heard from the mayor in a few days.

Cr Allgood said on Monday that Cr McLean had asked to meet with councillors at 5pm on Tuesday ahead of the 6pm public meeting in Ararat’s Shire Hall, but she was not sure of the exact nature of the gathering.

“I think there is a meeting at about five o’clock before the meeting, that’s all I know,” Cr Allgood said

“I don’t even know if the meeting has a title at the moment.”

Cr McLean has not returned phone calls requesting comment.

Cr Peter Beales said he wanted the mayor to explain reports she had moved to Queensland.

Cr Peter Beales said he wanted the mayor to explain reports she had moved to Queensland.

Cr Peter Beales said he would have to listen to Cr McLean’s statements at the pre-meeting gathering, assuming she would be there, before deciding what to do next.

“It depends on what decisions she makes. She should explain why,” Cr Beales said.

Cr Beales said he and other councillors were still mainly in the dark about the situation. 

“Like a lot of the councillors, I don’t actually know what is going on with the mayor,” Cr Beales said.

“The mayor and I have a strained relationship since she was elected. She said she had grave concerns about me and from that day forth I made a statement that I would not talk to the mayor unless someone else was there.

“We have’t talked, I haven’t see her since the reopening of the Willaura Railway Station last month. I haven’t spoken to her since then. I know other councillors have left messages with her and not had them responded to.”

Cr Beales said the mayor herself had outlined the importance of being part of the community in a recent opinion piece published by Fairfax Media.

“I don’t know if she is working interstate. If she is, that’s a real problem. You can’t be interstate full-time. You could do a couple of days here and go back but in (The Ararat Advertiser) last week she made the comments about volunteers and all that,” Cr Beales said.

“The mayor’s package is $80,000-odd; it’s not chicken feed. With that sort of money you should have a full-time commitment to the community, so obviously people would be upset that she;s been missing all this time and not knowing where she is.”

Acting Local Government Minister and Western Victoria MP Jaala Pulford has indicated that the state government will not act while Ararat Rural City Council can summon sufficient councillors to a general meeting to form a quorum. 

A quorum is minimum required number of councillors required to attend a meeting to make its decisions binding, which in Victoria would be having more than half the councillors attend a meeting. 

“We are well aware of the challenges facing Ararat Council - that’s why a Monitor has been appointed to keep an eye on Council and assist where possible,” Ms Pulford said in a statement.

“This process needs to be allowed to run its course.”

Ripon MP Louise Staley said the Ararat Rural City mayor's position was untenable.

Ripon MP Louise Staley said the Ararat Rural City mayor's position was untenable.

State Ripon MP Louise Staley, who is also an Ararat Rural City ratepayer, said Cr McLean’s position was untenable.

“As a ratepayer, I was very surprised to learn the mayor was working in Queensland,” Ms Staley said.

“I expect my local mayor to be available to the community and I think her position is untenable.”

Ms Staley said the state government’s response had been preemptive.

“I think we have seriously got to looko at how functional this council is. That’s why (municipal monitor) Janet Dore is there,” Ms Staley said.

“I was disappointed Jaala Pulford spoke before getting an updated report from the municipal monitor.”

Earlier – Friday 6pm

Ararat Rural City Council will not be subject to intervention by Victoria’s Local Government Minister despite concerns that its mayor is now living interstate.

Fairfax Media has been told by multiple sources that Ararat Rural City Council mayor Glenda Mclean has moved to Queensland.

Acting Local Government Minister and Western Victoria MP Jaala Pulford has indicated that the state government will not act while Ararat Rural City Council can summon sufficient councillors to a general meeting to form a quorum. 

A quorum is minimum required number of councillors required to attend a meeting to make its decisions binding, which in Victoria would be having more than half the councillors attend a meeting. 

“We are well aware of the challenges facing Ararat Council - that’s why a Monitor has been appointed to keep an eye on Council and assist where possible,” Ms Pulford said in a statement.

“This process needs to be allowed to run its course.”

Ararat’s business community has raised concerns about Cr McLean’s whereabouts.

There are media reports that Cr McLean is working at Mount Isa Hospital in north Queensland, more than 2600 kilometres from Ararat.

Fairfax Media has contacted Mount Isa Base Hospital and Queensland Health in an attempt to independently confirm those reports.

A nursing staff at Mount Isa could not confirm or deny that Cr McLean worked at the hospital and executive staff members were not available to comment.

Ararat Rural City councillor David Pettman has declined to comment, while other councilors except for deputy mayor Gwenda Allgood have not returned calls.

EARLIER – Friday 2.45pm

Ararat Rural City Council has said Mayor Glenda McLean is interstate temporarily following claims that she has moved to Queensland.

Ararat Rural City deputy mayor Gwenda Allgood did not confirm or deny speculation among Ararat’s business community that Cr McLean attended the latest pre-council meeting briefing session via teleconference.

“I really don’t know what her movements are, I haven’t spoken to her for three or four days, so I really don’t know,” Cr Allgood said.

Multiple sources have told Fairfax Media that a moving van has attended Cr McLean’s residence.

Ararat Rural City chief executive Allan Bawden told the ABC on Friday that he did not know the mayor’s location.

Ararat Rural City later made an additional statement to Fairfax Media.

"Ararat Rural City Council CEO and Municipal Monitor have been made aware of these concerns,” the statement said. 

“The Mayor has recently spent time interstate on private matters, but as far as Council is aware Cr McLean will be attending Tuesday night’s meeting.” 

Fairfax Media has attempted to contact Cr McLean via multiple phone numbers.

Ararat Rural City’s other councillors did not respond to a request for comment.

Ararat businessperson David Hosking said ratepayers needed to know what was going on.

“I think that there are some good people on our council and I think there are good people who work for our council,” he said.

“I think it’s fair to say, if we go back to the days when Andrea Marion was mayor and going through to the current time, I don’t think our council has functioned well.

“I don’t think it has performed to the level that we would expect as ratepayers, and it’s fair to say that a lot of people have had enough.”

Mr Hosking said it was time for Victoria’s Local Government Minister to get involved.

“Here is the supposed leader of our city, and I don’t know where she is. Nobody knows anything,” he said.

“The rest of us in the community have lost faith and trust in the people who have been elected to run the place.

“What I think should happen is that we need to reset. I think the state government should intervene, dismiss the council and appoint an administrator.”

It has been a difficult 18 months for Ararat Rural City Council, with a controversial plan to abolish differential rates discounts for farmers, a state government commission of inquiry and subsequent damning report, the former mayor’s resignation and a councillor’s request to the state government to sack the entire council.

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