Frankston Times 25 August 2020

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Former council employee scammed ratepayers

Election proceeds with new safety measures

Brodie Cowburn brodie@baysidenews.com.au

BY LAURA GREEN COUNCIL elections will continue as planned on 24 October, despite a second wave of COVID-19 cases. Victoria’s Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton consulted with Premier Daniel Andrews and the Victorian Electoral Commission to deliver a “COVIDSafe election plan”. There will be marked changes to the way voters deliver ballots during the coronavirus pandemic. Additional safety measures devised in the COVIDSafe Plan included social distancing in election offices, limiting face-to-face contact, enforcing mask wearing, and increased cleaning and sanitation requirements for ballot-counters. The Premier was optimistic for the delivery of safe and fair elections. “I am pleased Victorian communities can have their say on their local government representatives at democratic council general elections as planned,” he said. In June, Kingston councillors approved a motion to ask the Premier to push back the election date and delay the redistribution of Kingston’s ward boundaries (“Council asks to defer election”, The News, 1/7/20). Under laws introduced in the Local Government Act in March, Kingston Council will bump up the number of local councillors from nine across three wards, to 11 across individual wards. The decision conflicted with independent advice given by the VEC last year. The request to delay the election followed the dismissal of Victoria’s local government minister Adem Somyurek that same month. Victorian Greens MP Sam Hibbins said “as minister for local government [Mr Somyurek] proposed new ward boundaries for a number of councils and Victorians need assurance that this was done in good faith and not for political gain.” In October, residents will be supplied with postal ballots with instructions on returning their vote. Anyone who misses the deadline will need to hand deliver their ballot to a voting office.

A FORMER Frankston Council employee has pleaded guilty to scamming ratepayers out of more than $460,000. Andrew Williamson, a former community development manager at council, was alleged to have stolen $460,870 from ratepayers. He was also charged with attempt to commit an indictable offence for the amount of $65,530 and misconduct in public office. On 18 August, Mr Williamson pleaded guilty at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court. Mr Williamson’s conduct was the subject of an investigation by the state’s peak anti-corruption body. The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission began Operation Topi after Frankston Council made a report to them. A statement from IBAC read “Operation Topi was initiated by IBAC following a mandatory notification from Frankston City Council. Under mandatory notification requirements that came into effect in 2016, all heads of Victorian public sector departments and agencies, including council CEOs, must notify IBAC of any matter they suspect, on reasonable grounds, involves corrupt conduct.”

FORMER Frankston Council manager Andrew Williamson (inset) pleaded guilty to obtaining property by deception last week. Picture: Supplied Advertisement

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25 August 2020

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