Barkly Regional Council has been suspended and put under official management by the Northern Territory Government, following accusations of misfunding and inadequate services in its remote communities.
These accusations have resulted in Council undergoing an investigation, and suspensions across the organisation.
All 12 councillors have been suspended from office and Manager for Priority Projects at the Northern Territory’s Department of Housing, Local Government and Regional Services, Peter Holt, has been appointed official manager; taking on the role of the elected members.
Northern Territory Local Government Minister, Chansey Paech, announced on 17 October that the Barkly Regional Council, which serves more than 8,000 people, would be suspended and investigated.
Following the investigation, a report will be handed down to Mr Paech with recommendations by March 2024.
Mr Paech said the government would adopt the recommendations of the investigation and any corruption allegations would be referred to the Northern Territory’s Independent Commission Against Corruption.
The Council’s takeover comes just a week after Barkly Regional Council Mayor, Jeffrey McLaughlin, went on extended leave when footage emerged of him sitting on an Indigenous boy while performing a citizen’s arrest.
Mr Paech said to the media that he had reached out to Mr McLaughlin to let him know that even though the suspension was unrelated to his actions, the decision was made because the government was satisfied there were or might be serious deficiencies in the conduct of the council’s affairs.
“An audit is being placed on the Council due to fiscal management concerns and concerns around service delivery in Tennant Creek and in the remote communities that are responsible under the Barkly Regional Council,” Mr Paech said.
“That could be anything from the operations of local authorities in those communities, from rubbish collections, maintaining the local networks and infrastructure in those communities, that’s what I need to have a look at.
“I rang the mayor this morning and the councillors will now all be issued with formal correspondence advising them that they are placed under official management and that they are suspended.”
Speaking with ABC News, former Barkly Regional Councillor, Hal Ruger, who resigned in 2022, welcomed the Northern Territory Government’s suspension decision.
“It’s something that the community wanted because there have been concerns with the performance of councillors this time around,” Mr Ruger said.
“There was just no coming together-ness, there was no plan for going forward as a group.
“Obviously, in other councils we didn’t all agree at all times, but we agreed on the end goal that we were trying to achieve.
“But with this council, there was just none of that, none of it there at all.”