Council probe continues
New details are emerging in a public inquiry into the New South Wales Central Coast Council.
The inquiry into the practices that led to the entire council being suspended is looking at financial mismanagement.
The council ended up with $565 million in debt and major deficits.
Suspended Labor councillor Richard Mehrtens took the stand on Tuesday.
He said there was no opportunity for councillors to make substantive changes to the 2020-21 budget, and had been given inadequate information about the organisation's financial situation.
“A lot of councillors in that budget session had raised complaints or concerns about specific funding or specific spending and that they have requested quite substantial changes,” Mr Mehrtens said.
“However, we were told at that point; ‘Councillors you can either vote for this budget as it is or you can vote it down and you will go into administration’.
“We didn't know how we could properly challenge those decisions.”
On Wednesday, the former chief of the cash-strapped Central Coast Council, Gary Murphy, told the public inquiry that he reluctantly took on a lead accounting role after a succession of chief financial officers resigned.
Administrator Dick Persson sacked Mry Murphy shortly after the crisis was publicly revealed.
Mr Murphy said he was “surprised” that councillors “seemed quite satisfied with a deficit budget” of $32.5 million for 2020-21 “given the circumstances that we were in”.
“I'm never comfortable with deficit budgets, and as I said to the councillors; ‘You can't run deficit budgets forever’,” he said.
“We needed to have a long-term plan to get out of that process.
“I think there was a proposal that we would run deficits in the short-term and then there would be a recovery after that.”