Welcome to this week’s (Sept 24th, 2022) editorial,
This week brings the end to an interesting era at Eurobodalla Council and it would be wrong not to make mention of the retirement of Dr Catherine Dale.
Image: Dr Catherine Dale Photo: Eurobodalla Council
In March 2022 we learnt that Eurobodalla Council’s general manager Dr Catherine Dale had announced she would not seek re-appointment when her contract concluded on 30th September 2022.
Dr Dale said she had instead decided to pursue lecturing opportunities in the university sector and other consultancy roles.
Beagle readers might not be aware that it was the election of Mayor Innes in September 2016 that highlighted the need for the community to have a local newspaper committed to covering Council matters and, in particular, being a watchdog of their proceedings.
The Eurobodalla Council at the time already had a toxic reputation in regards to their dealings with the general public and this was going unreported. Corners were being cut, there was little scrutiny and above all little consequence if any wrongdoing was discovered.
It was widely considered that the newly elected 2016 councillors, under newly elected Mayor Innes, would have little, if any effect on the “business as usual” mentality that the community were becoming rapidly dissatisfied with. Generally the sentiment was that there was a clear divide between Us and Them, and cementing that divide was the cosy relationship between the upper management and the majority of the councillors of the day, content with conducting "business as usual".
I was already familiar with a string of governance “irregularities” that seemed to be acceptable to the councillors but failed the Pub Test. It was also clear that the official agencies in charge of overseeing compliance were either lazy, indifferent or defensive when presented with any complaint, so the only option that remained was to publicly report, and reveal.
I must say that this had an immediate effect. The Council did not enjoy such limelight and scrutiny. Their initial action was to publicly denigrate The Beagle as “just a blog” and to label any of the contributors as Usual Suspects. Some even chose to wear it as a badge of honour to declare they didn’t read The Beagle. Dr Dale was one who declared such a position.
Fortunately the wider community did read The Beagle and over the next five years of the Dale/Innes term the pair of them, via their actions, or inactions, managed to alarm Beagle readers that things were not necessarily going as they should, nor as rosy as Council might like to reveal.
In fact there was a disquiet building that was brought to a head with the 2021 Local Council election where it was clear the community wanted more of their councillors. Though not an electioneering mandate many voters began to show support for those councillor candidates who privately voiced their intent to “retire” the General Manager should they be elected.
With Innes declaring she would not be re-contesting her Mayordom, the House of Cards and her voting bloc tumbled leaving just one last relic to survive into this new term. As a result the entrenched within the beauacracy lost their unquestioning councillor support and, to a certain extent, the protective Teflon coating that has, for so long, shielded any consequence of poor actions, practices and attitudes.
The end of this month will see the end of an era that will remain on record as a period, like no other, that brought such sourness and division to the relationship between Council and its community.
We now move ahead with a new General Manager, guided by a new term of progressive councillors who are already looking at, and addressing, past failures in both communication and process via a mandate of Openness and Transparency.
So as we say goodbye to Dr Dale I must say we owe her a vote of thanks because, had it not been for my concerns in 2016, at the beginning of the Dale/Innes term, I might not have created The Beagle as a watchdog to report on what I knew lay ahead for the next five years.
So thank you Dr Dale, even though you probably won’t read this.