Peter Cormick on the ESC General Manager's performance review
During Council's Public Forum on Tuesday March 26th, 2017, Peter Cormick addressed the composition of the General Manager’s Performance Review Committee From Peter’s Council Matters article in The Beagle on Monday 26th Peter indicated his dissatisfaction of the process and final determination that sit within the final recommendation. “As described in the Mayoral report, this matter – of the General Manager’s Performance review panel – was first brought before councillors on 11 October last year, as part of a report by the General Manager. At that time, the GM recommended to councillors that they approve a review panel comprising the “Mayor, Deputy Mayor, 1 councillor. (optional 2nd councillor can be nominated by General Manager)”. And, of concern to me, at least, this significant recommendation was buried in amongst a very long list of committees, including external and advisory committees. It took a keen eye to spot this entry in the Trojan Horse report. In the event, the recommendation for the review panel was focused on and debated. “Now, more than 5 months later, the matter has been brought back into the chamber - this time by the mayor, as it ought to be. We are now told that the deferral occurred in order for councillors to “consult with the General Manager” and that “Discussions have since occurred, with the General Manager, on the committee composition and it is considered appropriate to include all Councillors on the review panel”. It is now “considered appropriate” – by the General Manager?! The report states that “In the past, Council has established a Review Panel comprising the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and one other Councillor. This structure has proved effective as it provides a better forum for constructive comment and feedback”. I have no idea how the mayor could hold this view: that the previous arrangement provides a “better forum”. The new approach has not yet been tried. In any event, as I have argued previously, the relevant sections of the LGA, including section 232(2), require all nine councillors to take part.”
Above: Peter talks to The Beagle after the Council meeting on March 26th, 2017
Peter Cormick’s Public Forum presentation to Eurobodalla Council on Tuesday March 26th now follows which reiterates the observations and concerns raised above. PUBLIC FORUM Presentation - 28 MARCH 2017 – Peter Cormick
Item MR17/002 GENERAL MANAGER'S PERFORMANCE REVIEW COMMITTEE
The first thing to say is that I’m very pleased to see that this matter has finally returned to the chamber, after 5 long months.
It is clear to anyone with even a basic appreciation of local government matters that the position of General Manager is of fundamental importance to the effective functioning of a council. So too, then, is the importance of the monitoring of a General Manager’s performance.
Sections 223 and 226 of the recently amended Local Government Act, which define the roles of the governing body and the mayor, respectively, make clear that it is the governing body, being all councillors, lead by the mayor, that is charged with the responsibility of evaluating the performance of a general manager. There is no mention in the legislation of the general manger being involved in the performance appraisal process other than being the subject of it.
Of course, there must be discussions between the governing body and the general manager about when and how a performance appraisal will occur. It would be very odd indeed if that did not take place. However, ever since the 11 October 2016 meeting when the composition of the performance review panel, as recommended by the general manager, was questioned and a decision deferred, the general manager’s role in the process to this point appears to me to have been beyond that which might be considered appropriate - as measured against the provisions of the relevant legislation, which clearly state that the process is to be conducted according to the requirements of the governing body alone.
We are told in this mayoral report that during the past 5 months the composition of the review panel has been discussed with the general manager and that now “it is considered appropriate to include all councillors on the review”. I can’t help but interpret that statement to mean that the general manager’s agreement to all councillors being involved, was required.
In addition, we are told that the “independent facilitator” will need to have been agreed to by the general manager.
There is no question that an experienced and able facilitator is needed for the appraisal process to be properly undertaken but why must the general manager’s agreement to the engagement of a particular facilitator be required? Certainly it is far preferable that there is agreement but it should surely not be made a requirement. Councillors must have the final say in the event of a disagreement.
And the report tells us that “In the past, Council has established a Review Panel comprising the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and one other Councillor [and that this] structure has proved effective as it provides a better forum for constructive comment and feedback.”
At least two questions arise from that statement:
How can it be said to be better than what is proposed when what is proposed has not yet been tried? And, secondly
If the mayor considers the old way of doing things was better why has she put forward this motion to enable all nine councillors to form the review panel?
And there are further questions, concerning the proposed “independent facilitator”: What exactly does “independent” mean in this context? Does it mean that the facilitator will be unknown to the general manager? And who will nominate the list of candidates for the job?
As to the first recommendation, of course all nine councillors should be directly involved in the performance review process. In my view, the legislation requires it. I object to the second recommendation and expect councillors to have the final say should there be disagreement about who should facilitate the process. And on the third recommendation, I advise against locking into 12-monthly reviews and suggest that the wording be amended to allow for a review every six months or as otherwise determined by the governing body. The frequency is entirely a matter for councillors. In any event, I understand that the General Manager’s contract has about 12 months remaining. Following on from Peter's presentation, during question time, Councillor McGinlay also asked about the reference to "better than" and sought clarity in regards to the mutual agreement and what might happen if there isn't a mutual agreement and the General manager doesn't agree with the selection of the Independent facilitator. The Mayor advised that if Councillors can't arrive at a consensus there are other avenues to pursue and that if the General Manager doesn't agree with the selection of the Independent Faciliator there is a dispute resolution clause in her contract. "I am confident we will reach consensus but there is a fallback position to use." "There are outside processes and avenues available in order to move forward".