During the closed part of the ordinary meeting of council on 13 June 2017, Eurobodalla councillors saw fit to renew the General Manager’s contract for a further 5 years, commencing 1 July 2017.
Some Background: Councillors should remember the 13 June 2017 meeting well, as it was quite controversial.*
The General Manager insisted that the matters to be discussed in closed session that day, which happened to be her contract, must not be disclosed to the public.
Several public forum speakers emphasised that this was contrary to the LGA, with the OLG later confirming the GM’s interpretation of the Act was wrong. Paul Bradstreet, Peter Cormick and Jim Bright suggested to the Councillors prior to going into the Confidential Session on that day that the GM was obliged (both legally and morally) to have identified that the two 'personnel matters' were in fact about the GM's performance review and the proposal to extend her contract. * When Councillor Mayne sought clarity from the General Manager she stated that a confidential matter needs be “listed generically and must not give details of that item – that is the interpretation I have had confirmed by the Office of Local Government in relation to how we are currently doing .. listing the agenda” In regards to her advice to Councillor Mayne that it had been “confirmed by the Office of Local Government” a GIPA request was lodged by a shire resident seeking evidence of that confirmation. Below is the result (in part) of that request
As you can see from the document above the staff advise that no relevant record was found since the advice was provided verbally by the OLG during a phone conversation. For the ESC to phone the OLG and seek such advice without making any file note of doing so in either an Executive diary or by a followup confirming email or to have transcribed that advice for further reference; and knowing that such advice would be tendered at an upcoming Council meeting that was anticipated to be highly controversial is, to many following this matter, .... most unusual indeed.
The OLG has also advised, under Freedom of Information, that it has no documentary record of giving such advice of which the General Manager refers to when she answers Councillor Mayne's question seeking clarity of the matter. Of considerable interest is that just one month later, on 13th of July, the OLG provided written advice to the General Manager clearly indicating that they in fact held a contrary view of how Confidential Matters are handled and that Council "may wish to review the manner in which it identifies matters to be considered in closed meetings”.
It has now been over 10 months since those confidential discussions were held and since the subsequent public announcement to extend the GM’s contract was made. However, lacking in that announcement was the GM’s salary package.
Section 5 of the OLG's Guidelines for the Appointment & Oversight of General Managers, issued pursuant to section 23A of the LGA, under the heading of Contract Renewal or Separation, advises council,
"it is important that any decision by the governing body of council to renew a contract for the general manager and the term of that contract be reported back to an open meeting of council, together with the total amount of any salary package agreed to";
and, at section 6, council is advised that "Any discretionary increases [in the GM's remuneration] should be modest and in line with community expectations. All discretionary increases in remuneration, together with the reasons for the increase, must be reported to an open meeting of council."
In a second letter from the OLG (dated 24th July 2017) they offer specific guidance in regards to minutes of meetings with reference to the Confidential Matters of the 13th June 2017 meeting indicating amendments would require a resolution of Council.
Councillors have recently been advised that the following questions are now being asked of the Mayor (who is charged with the reappointment of the General Manager) :
Has council decided on GM's remuneration package, following her contract renewal on 13 June 2018, and if such a decision has been made, when did it occur and what were the details of the decision (of the remuneration package)?
If there has still not been a decision made on the GM's remuneration package, since the contract renewal, when is it expected that such a decision will be made?
Given that GM's remuneration package is an essential component of her contract, how was it possible for council to decide to renew it when the remuneration had not been decided on at the time?
What is the GM's current remuneration package?