THE suspension of West Wimmera councillor Tom Houlihan will cost the council about $30,000, a report has revealed.
An independent Councillor Code of Conduct Panel ruled in December that Cr Houlihan had committed one count of serious misconduct and one count of misconduct as a result of a complaint made by the council.
Cr Houlihan was suspended from council duties on December 20 for a period of two months. His suspension ends on February 20.
In a report to be discussed at the council's next ordinary meeting on February 19, corporate and community service director Ashley Roberts outlined the costs of convening the panel.
"Council has not yet received an official invoice of the costs from the Registrar's office, but have received advice of the cost being $12,790.12," the report said.
"Additional to this, council incurred $545.00 (excluding GST) in accommodation costs for the panel members, plus $6,982.84 (excluding GST) in transcript service costs for both the panel hearing and directions hearing. This is on top of the costs incurred during the failed mediation process which cost the council $9,900.00 (excluding GST)."
The independent panel was held in the Edenhope Council Chamber on November 25. Among those who gave evidence were Cr Houlihan, Cr Jodie Pretlove, Cr Richard Hicks, council chief executive David Leahy and council governance officer Elizabeth Matuschka.
A council application to the panel alleged that Cr Houlihan had repeatedly behaved in an "aggressive, intimidating and disrespectful manner" towards fellow councillors and members of council staff creating a risk to their health and safety.
The application alleged that these behaviours were constituted as bullying.
The panel's report said Cr Houlihan had been the subject of two formal Councillor Code of Conduct complaints - lodged in June 2018 and December 2018 - relating to "ongoing inappropriate behaviour".
The panel found there was "substantial evidence" to support grounds that Cr Houlihan had breached councillor codes of conduct.
See the panel's full response below
Speaking to the Mail-Times in December after his suspension was made public, Cr Houlihan said he had done "nothing wrong".
"This is how West Wimmera shire treats a volunteer who has been working on this project for more than 10 years," he said.
"I want to apologise to my constituents for the waste of money which the panel would have cost.
"I have nothing to hide. My biggest crime is that I've been a volunteer for 50 years."
He said he planned to run for council again at next year's election.
The Mail-Times contacted West Wimmera Shire Council for further comment.
The council reserved its right to not comment until after next week's meeting.
See the council's full agenda below
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