By CAMERON LUCADOU-WELLS
A COUNCILLOR has taken stress leave and lodged a WorkCover claim against Greater Dandenong Council for the mental toll caused by a secret council investigation into her and a colleague.
Cr Maria Sampey was absent from Thursday’s mayoral election, having taken medical leave until 14 November.
During her absence, councillors dumped her as a non-voting council representative on Dandenong Market’s board – though Cr Sampey had indicated her desire to continue in the role.
“This isn’t a bit of a break,” Cr Sampey said last week. “This is stress. It’s been going on and on and on. There doesn’t seem to be any let-up.
“The doctor said I was so stressed, put in a WorkCover claim. I’m hoping WorkCover will investigate [council chief executive] John Bennie and [previous mayor] Angela Long – they haven’t looked after my well-being.”
Since lodging the claim, Cr Sampey said the council has offered her access to psychological support services. The council did not comment on the matter before deadline.
In May, Mr Bennie and Cr Long launched a confidential investigation into Crs Sampey and Peter Brown for allegedly causing council staff to feel hurt and distressed during debate over a botched footpath in Noble Park.
The two accused councillors have fought for access to the investigation report, handed to the council in July.
They were disappointed that fellow councillors had voted for access only to a version of the report edited by M+K Lawyers.
In her and Cr Brown’s view, the report’s edits may be only ostensibly to protect complainants’ privacy.
At Thursday’s meeting, Cr Matthew Kirwan moved for Cr Sampey’s retention as a “passionate, dedicated representative” on the Dandenong Market board.
“The market board is doing a fantastic job but you need a very effective voice for councillors on that board. I believe Cr Sampey [if re-instated] is going to scrutinise them and ask the hard questions.”
Cr Sean O’Reilly, in supporting Cr Sampey’s position, said: “If we have a representative that has shown the interest, attended the meetings and … many would agree she’s doing a good job, we should not be displacing people for anyone else.”
No opposing councillors voiced their reasons for dumping Cr Sampey in favour of Cr John Kelly.
Cr Sampey said newly-elected mayor Jim Memeti, who last week declared the matter “done and dusted”, would have to “unscramble” the investigation fallout.