PUBLIC FORUM PRESENTATION - 13 JUNE 2017
My name is Jim Bright. I'm a resident of Narooma.
I'm here today to speak about the arrangements that are in place in NSW for the employment of local council General Managers. These arrangements have been decided by the Office of Local Government and are set out in this document (OLG Circular 11-14 dated 8/7/2011).
In particular, I am going to speak about the arrangements that come into play when a council might be approaching the termination date of its GM's contract.
In this State, the government requires council General Managers be employed on fixed-term contracts. The maximum term of one of those contracts is five years.
The decision on who should be offered a position as a GM lies with the Council – that is, it's a majority decision of the elected councillors.
Consistent with most public sector jobs, the LG Act obliges a council to make its employment decision by deciding which applicant has the greatest merit – and merit is determined by examining the relevant “abilities, qualifications, experience and standard of work performance” of the various applicants. (Section 349)
Under the NSW government contract arrangements for General Managers, an existing GM can ask to be reappointed for another term without having to go through another competitive process. (Clause 4 of the standard contract.) But nothing in that contract or in the government employment guidelines obliges the council to go down that path if it happens to receive such a request from its GM.
It is purely at the discretion of a majority of the councillors to either accept that proposal or to advertise the position. All that the 'rules' require is that a GM must make any request for reappointment at least 9 months before the expiry date of the current contract. For example, in the case of this council, our GM would need to make such a request by about this July.
However - there is no requirement for a Council to immediately respond to that request. The rules simply require that a response must be given to the GM not later than 6 months before the end of the contract. For example, in this Council's case, that would be by about October this year.
If a council decided instead to advertise its GM position, the existing GM is, of course, always entitled to apply and compete against the other applicants.
So what might be the considerations that councillors take into account if you were ever to be confronted with such a situation?
Well a good spot to always start is the LG Act. In particular, section 8A of the Act provides you with – 'Guiding principles for councils'.
Some examples of the [possible relevant principles in a matter such as this are -
8A(1)(h) “Councils should act fairly, ethically and without bias in the interests of the local community”.
8A(2)(e) “Council decision-making should be transparent and decision-makers are to be accountable for decisions and omissions”.
8A(3) Community participation. Councils should actively engage with their local communities”.
And possibly most importantly in this type of issue -
8A(1)(b) Councils should carry out functions in a way that provides the best possible value for residents and ratepayers”.
In my view, and I suspect in the view of most, I reckon that unless councillors were somehow pretty confident that they already had the best available person for the job, then their statutory obligation - on behalf of the residents that have elected them - would be to get an ad in the papers (and wherever) state-wide and find out what's available at the moment out there. It's not at all obvious to me how any other course of action could be a responsible decision for a council on the far south coast of NSW.
And I reckon I'd be sounding out the local community for its thoughts as well.
Thank you for your time.