9 February 2016

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NEWS DESK

Council nod to lift expenses David Harrison david@mpnews.com.au TWO Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors have overspent their seminars and conferences allowance, one by more than 92 per cent. Figures up to the end of January included in a councillor briefing show Cr Antonella Celi has racked up $30,810 against an entitlement of $16,000, which is $14,810 (92.6 per cent) above her entitlement. Fellow Seawinds ward councillor David Gibb has spent $19,147, an overspend of $3147 or 19.6 per cent. Chief financial officer Matt Hubbard said the extra expenses incurred by Crs Celi and Gibb had been approved by “council resolution” for them to attend “additional professional education programs governed by examinations”. He said this type of spending was available to all councillors. Cr Celi has been doing a $10,000 diploma in local government since early in her term on council, leaving only $6000 for other spending under the shire’s Councillor Resource Expense Entitlements Policy. All councillors are entitled to $4000 a year, or $16,000 over the four-year council term. Cr Gibb used $7000 for a director’s course, leaving only $9000 before he reached his $16,000 allowance ceiling. Cr Celi’s spending comprises near-

ly 20 per cent of what all councillors have spent on seminars and conferences since the 2012 elections, the figures reveal. In contrast, the table sent to councillors in the briefing papers show Cr Andrew Dixon has spent nothing so far in this term, which ends with the council election on 22 October. Cr Celi referred inquiries from The News to communications and media manager Mark Kestigian. The third Seawinds councillor, the mayor Graham Pittock, has chalked up $10,505 (excluding an estimated $6000 trip to Paris), taking the ward total to $60,462 for the period. Nepean ward’s Hugh Fraser (who also went to paris at an estimated cost of $6000) and Tim Rodgers each spent between $15,000 and $16,000, for a total of $30,949. Briars ward’s three councillors combined, Anne Shaw, Bev Colomb and Cr Dixon, have spent $22,926 in total. Cr Pittock said his ward colleagues were “hard-working councillors and probably needed the extra funds”. According to the shire figures Cr Celi spent $8336 in 2012-13, exceeding by $4336 that year’s entitlement. Councillors can “borrow” from future years to attend conferences and seminars but must not exceed the four-year limit. In 2013-14 Cr Celi spent a further $8362, bringing her total spend to $16,698, or $698 over her four-year entitlement in two years. Page 10

Three times the fun: Triplets Donna, Dimitri and Andreas Watson enjoyed their first day at Mornington Primary School last week. Picture: Yanni

School’s first day triple treat THAT first day at school … It’s often a mixture of angst, excitement and anticipation – coupled with an organisational challenge for parents. Well, just imagine increasing the stakes threefold! That was the case for one local family last week when triplets Donna, Dimitri and Andreas Watson turned up

for prep classes at Mornington Primary, Vale St, for the first time. The two boys and one girl were popular arrivals. “They are the only triplets at the school and we believe they are the first ever triplets here at Mornington Primary,” business manager Olympia Maselli said.

Dad Carl said the children got along well but were happy to be in separate grades in the school’s junior open learning centre. “They spend enough time together and it will be good for them to meet up with other children,” he said. The triplets will turn five on 17 February.

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