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Council looks to improve selection process for next General Manager

To ensure that the process to select the next Eurobodalla Council general manager is carried out appropriately without risk of compromise the new term of council voted as a majority (Clr Pollock voted against) that: Council endorses the selection of their preferred consultant for the recruitment of the General Manager and note that the Mayor is responsible for liaising with the preferred consultant. The outcome will be that Council will receive a further report regarding the recruitment process and selection panel Council’s General Manager, Dr Catherine Dale, informed Council that she will not seek a contract renewal and will conclude employment on 30 September 2022. The incumbent for this position is leaving Council on 30 September 2022. Council must finalise the recruitment prior to this date. The process for the selection of a new General Manager will need to be in accordance with guidelines that state that the selection panel should consist of a suitably qualified person independent of the council. It is understood that there has been robust discussion on what mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure the community is served by a quality replacement. During discussion at the Tuesday May 24th 2022 meeting Councillor Anthony Mayne said "Obviously this is a really significant role and the process would need to be a robust process to ensure we, on behalf of our community, found the best organisation possible to ensure we had the widest pool of candidates for this critical role for our shire. "This is a really serious task. We need to engage real professionals to assist us in this process". As with the appointment of all council staff, the council must ensure that the appointment of the general manager is made using merit selection principles (section 349). Recruitment using merit selection is a competitive process where the applicant who demonstrates that they have the best qualifications and experience relevant to the position is appointed. Of interest will be the requirement of declaration of any association between the the selector and the candidate as has been in the past. As with any position it is essential that a full job description be developed that is measured and reported on my Key Performance Indicators. In this regard it is vital that the Council, being the councillors, recognise themselves as the employer and carry out the annual performance reviews rather than rely on the position holder to do so. To ensure that the process of selection of a General Manager is above board and removed from nepotism or otherwise the Office of Local Government are proposing amendments to the standard contract of employment for general managers: Under section 338 of the Act, general managers must be employed under performance-based contracts of terms between 12 months and 5 years based on a standard contract approved by the departmental chief executive of OLG. This will require a far more robust annual performance review and should also allow the General Manager's KPI's to be published so that the community might understand how the position is measured and "performance" assessed.

An example where improvement could be made comes from the frustration that the community have been none the wiser of the nine "key performance indicators" that the General Manager has been assessed on in the past. The question must be "Will these same KPIs be rolled over into the new contract or is there an opportunity to rewrite the performance indicators in such a way that they become meaningful to the wider community". Dr Dale’s contract as General Manager was extended for five years, commencing from 1 July 2017with a further extension until September 2022. In 2017, at the end of the General Manager's previous four year term, Council reported: "A review panel comprising all nine councillors assisted by an independent facilitator assessed the General Manager against nine areas of governance, organisation leadership, community relations and communications, financial sustainability and budgeting processes, asset management, land use planning and applications, business development and tourism, community services, and risk management." Given the Council's reluctance to shed light on the processes and the associations of that review it is understandable that the new Council wish to move ahead to ensure that the community have faith in the process. While it was understood that the review was by self assessment it was also understood that the final determination was delegated by the councillors to the Mayor to finalise negotiations, delivering a on good report card with an very generous remuneration package. At the time there remained continuing disappointment, distrust and consternation around Council's defiant reluctance to reveal the General Managers remuneration following notice of her contract being extended. Complaints to the Office of Local Government around the failure resulted in indifference saying Council was not obliged to release the information until it was convenient and in context to do so. The initial anger around the general Manager's reappointment process was the fact that, by her own advice, the Council meeting Agenda item for her Salary review, and possible reappointment, was disguised from view and the subsequent minutes were found wanting of detail or completeness. At the time the Councillors chose to ignore three well informed speakers who challenged the procedure prior to their going into confidential citing the Local Government Act. This failure of procedure on the part of councillors gained Council a letter of castigation from the Office of Local Government. Eurobodalla Council defiantly failed to carry out the very clear directive of the Division of Local Government, Department of Premier and Cabinet Guidelines For The Appointment & Oversight Of General Managers that states, in part: 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 ... Any discretionary increases 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. It took twenty months for the Eurobodalla community to discover that the General Manager's remuneration jumped by a staggering 6.1%.


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