Ombudsman takes on Brimbank council

Agents from the office of Ombudsman George Brouwer reportedly raided the headquarters of the council in Sunshine yesterday morning, seizing computers and documents. Mr Brouwer's office later confirmed that a probe would be conducted on "practices and governance" at the western suburbs council.

The investigation comes after the Coalition wrote to Mr Brouwer calling for an inquiry following an extraordinary attack in Parliament by maverick Labor MP George Seitz.

Mr Seitz claimed the council was intimidating local residents and called for the council to be sacked by the State Government.

Last night, Mr Seitz welcomed the investigation, and encouraged Brimbank residents to co-operate with it.

"It is not lightly that the Ombudsman investigates a local council," he told The Age.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for people to raise the problems they have with how the council has been run."

Brimbank chief executive Nick Foa emailed all Brimbank councillors yesterday, informing them of the investigation, saying that the Ombudsman had attended the council, and warning them that they were now subject to confidentiality under the Ombudsman's Act.

Mr Foa told The Age that the council would co-operate fully with the inquiry but he would not make any further comment.

Brimbank Mayor Sam David said the council was happy to assist with the investigation, but denied any documents or computers had been taken from the council.

Cr David said that differences of opinion often occurred between councillors and "council business is run very, very smoothly".

The Brimbank investigation comes in the wake of a bitter brawl in Premier John Brumby's Right faction over preselection for the recent Kororoit byelection.

Mr Seitz's parliamentary outburst singled out councillor Natalie Suleyman, describing her as the "Robert Mugabe of Brimbank". He accused Cr Suleyman and her backers of running the council to exact revenge on the community for not supporting her bid to be Labor's byelection candidate.

Cr Suleyman, a former Brimbank mayor, lost preselection to Darebin councillor Marlene Kairouz.

Supporters of Cr Suleyman have accused Mr Seitz of using ethnic groups to stack ALP branches, a claim he denies.

Coalition leader Ted Baillieu said the Ombudsman's investigation would be an improvement on Mr Brumby's preference for the complaints to be considered by the Office of Local Government.

"The Ombudsman, however, does not have the power or jurisdiction of an independent, broad-based, anti-corruption commission, which John Brumby still refuses to establish," Mr Baillieu said.

The Brumby Government has said that the Ombudsman has extensive investigative powers and has encouraged anyone with complaints about Brimbank to raise them with the Local Government Department.