Whittlesea councillors vote to dismiss Michael Wootten from top job

Whittlesea Leader
10 March 2017
Peter Reynolds

Whittlesea’s former chief executive Michael Wootten, axed after less than a year in the job.

Whittlesea’s former chief executive Michael Wootten, axed after less than a year in the job.

UPDATE: A COUNCIL in Melbourne’s north which has replaced two CEOs in less than a year has been accused of having “a culture of bullying and abuse”.

Speaking in parliament last night, Yan Yean state Labor MP Danielle Green said she had been shocked by the sudden axing of chief executive Michael Wootten behind closed doors on Tuesday night, especially as it came just 11 months after he took up the position.

“I understand that this (sacking) was without warning and that Mr Wootten was almost frogmarched from the building,” she said.

“I was aghast when the highly regarded and long-serving former CEO, David Turnbull, was also dismissed in early 2016, some 11 months ago — right at a time when this municipality was facing the highest rate of growth that it has ever faced and needed someone of his standing.

“It seems there is a culture of bullying and abuse of councillor power and resources. I abhor the way that these two fine men in Mr Wootten and Mr Turnbull have been treated.”

Ms Green was also critical of the lack of transparency at the council. She said the the Know Your Council website showed 37.91 per cent of every decision made by the council was made without the scrutiny of the community and behind closed doors. The statewide average for decisions made in camera by Victoria’s 79 councils is 11.57 per cent and at other growth area councils – Hume, Melton, Wyndham and Casey – it is 17.74 per cent.

A State Government investigation into the council will now be carried out after Ms Green asked Local Government Minister Natalie Hutchins to invervene.

In a statement provided to Leader, government spokesman Matthew Dixon said Ms Hutchins had asked her department to investigate if the recent changes in chief executive at the council created any concerns for the good governance of the city.

The Parliament of Victoria has the power to dismiss a council, although it is used as a last resort.

Following Tuesday night’s council forum meeting, Mr Wootten was shown the door, less than a year into his term as chief executive.

The former acting chief executive of the CFA was appointed in April last year after councillors voted to get rid of chief executive David Turnbull who had been in charge of Whittlesea Council for nine years.

Mayor Ricky Kirkham declined to give a reason for the sacking, but thanked Mr Wootten for his contribution to the Whittlesea community.

“We wish him well in his future endeavours,” Cr Kirkham said.

The director of partnerships and engagement, Liana Thompson, has been appointed acting chief executive for three months while the council searches for a replacement.


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