WHEN Cessnock general manager Lea Rosser quit her job in April, a strange stalemate came to an end.
Some time before, councillors had tried to terminate her contract, citing performance issues, but she responded by referring corruption allegations to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
One effect of that reference was to prevent councillors from sacking the general manager, an effect that became redundant when she resigned from her position.
All the same, the ICAC reference remained active, until yesterday when the commission cleared the council of the allegations.
Naturally those affected have expressed relief and outrage, pointing at the cost to ratepayers of the apparently unnecessary exercise.
That's fair enough, to a point.
But what can't be forgotten is that Cessnock already had a long history of local government dysfunction well before Ms Rosser's two-year tenure began.
Nor should councillors or ratepayers overlook the string of warnings and observations that the ICAC has appended to its report.
In particular, the commission has urged the council to overhaul the way it handles important development issues, highlighting a variety of important concerns.
Two former councillors, for example, should have declared "significant" relationships with a property developer who had a major project before the council.
Ratepayers are entitled to be worried about a management culture that, according to ICAC, permitted the 1999 payment of $2.2 million to a company to manage major land projects without any written agreement in place, and without competitive processes.
A committee formed to oversee these land projects kept no written records, and poor management of developer contributions may have short-changed the community.
Mistakes were also made in the handling of a proposed airport takeover, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, the ICAC found.
The council's "laissez-fare approach" to project management had left it in a "vulnerable" position on several projects and the council had failed to recognise or manage corruption risks when outsourcing work.
It has been estimated that the latest ICAC fiasco may cost ratepayers $2 million, making the total sum of squandered resources very considerable, in the context of an organisation that often cries poor in the face of bad roads and run-down facilities.
The ICAC has cleared the council of corruption, and that's a good thing. But the organisation still has plenty of issues that need fixing.