Central Goldfields Shire Council chief executive officer Mark Johnston has been charged with multiple accounts of obtaining financial advantage by deception, false accounting and conflict of interest.
The charges follow a Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate (LGICI) investigation that has taken place over the past year.
The LGICI released the following statement this afternoon:
“Mr Mark Johnston, CEO of Central Goldfields Shire Council, has today been served via his lawyers with 41 charges following a comprehensive investigation by the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate.
“Mr Johnston was presented with 41 charges in total, including two charges under the Local Government Act relating to conflict of interest, 34 charges under the Crimes Act relating to obtaining financial advantage by deception, and five charges of false accounting.
“The charges were filed in the Melbourne Magistrates Court last Friday.
“Chief Municipal Inspector David Wolf said the charges were laid after a long and complex investigation with several matters dating back a number of years. Central Goldfields Shire Council Mayor has been advised of the matter.
“The matter is listed for initial hearing at the Maryborough Magistrates Court on 31 August 2017.”
The Courier understands the financial advantage by deception charges relate mainly to corporate credit card use.
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Johnston has been the CEO at the council since its inception in 1995, following the amalgamations imposed by the Kennett government, appointing interim commissioners to replace previously elected councillors.
He was selected by the three commissioners of the CGSC: John Gault, Geoff Horton and David Karmouche, having previously been acting CEO of the Gannawarra shire.
The shire has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state, and rates in the bottom percentile for health and social issues on government indices for socio-economic disadvantage.
The charges follow inspectorate raids on council offices in September 2016, and the appointment of a municipal overseer.
Central Goldfields Shire Council mayor Geoff Lovett was contacted for comment.
The Courier contacted Central Goldfields Shire Council for comment but was told that all phone lines at the council were currently diverted to the emergency number due to a Telstra fault.
Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins referred all queries to the LGICI.