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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Mayor recommends an extension of employment for General Manager

In a surprise appearance at last Tuesday's Council briefings the Mayor, Liz Innes, indicated she was supportive of extending the employment of the General Manager, Catherine Dale, so that the GM could induct the new councillors (should the December 4th local elections proceed). As the election is to be held in December and the first Council meeting will occur in February 2022 it will be some time before the newly elected have a chance to bend their arm to the election mandates and promises they made. The new Councillors usually are invited to a two day work shop somewhere nice like Bungendore where they get to know senior Council staff and go through a process of induction of what it is to be a councillor, what they can actually achieve and most importantly, what they can't achieve. The process introduces the constraints of the Local Government Act, the Planning controls and the Environmental controls. It takes little time for councillors to learn that the State controls just about everything via legislation and that they, as councillors, need to be seen to endorse and apply that legislation. The example of the accomplishments of the Innes term were that Council banned helium balloons on Council reserves, introduced cat bibs as a Council promoted action and made parking in Batemans Bay free. The rest of the time the Councillors voted to adopt staff recommendations. New Councillors are required to systematically endorse existing Council policies. They are invited to recommend changes though they rarely do as the staff will advise them of the various government rules that prohibit such changes. Generally the Policies and Guidelines are endorsed in blocks. Hands up everyone.... and they do. The staff are the authors of the Policies and Guidelines. The Councillors are mere rubber stamps. The Innes term saw the introduction of a new Code of Meeting practice that saw the staff recommendation to remove live streaming of Public Forum, to demand presentations be provided 24 hours before, to halve the Public Access sessions and to have the General Manager determine who speaks if there are several speakers presenting on the same topic. That may be one policy that will be debated. The bottom line is that the newbie councillors who enter the induction with vim and vigor expecting to bring change with a new broom will come away with their heads in a spin and disillusioned having discovered that, as a councillor, there is bugger all they can actually do unless the legislation agrees. The role of the General Manager is vital to this "brainwash" that is more of a session in disempowerment. One by one the senior executive introduce their Division and advise of the short term and long term budgets that the previous Council has committed to in previous budgets. "You want to paint a toilet block? Well, sadly that isn't in the schedule because we have an annual budget for painting toilet blocks and yours isn't a high priority. Might you want to tell us which high priority toilet block should be taken off the list so that yours can be painted?" And there you have it. The new councillors realise there is little they can do as schedules are already in place based on priorities based on algorithms that have already been committed to in budgets. So what can the new councillors do? Not much except attend briefings every second Tuesday to listen to senior staff tell them what they are proposing for the next Agenda. The staff will tell councillors why they should vote on the recommendations and they take questions in these closed room sessions. Basically everything is done and dusted in that room so there is little if any debate in the chamber. This explains why a full Council agenda can be dealt with in fifteen minutes (a record !)

All of the above is The Induction. So it is clear to see that the Mayor (who has been the glove in the hand of the General Manager for her term) might suggest, out of the blue, that this Council extends the contract of the General Manager for the period of the Induction and , most possibly, the remaining term of the new Council that should run until September 2024. The suggestion to extend the General Manager's contract a further three months from July 2022 might well be because it is understood that the General Manager requires 12 months notice ahead of any determination regarding her continued tenure. Most likely, because the Mayor raised this as an important issue, important enough for her to make an appearance at briefings, the item around the extension of contract etc has come up in next week's agenda. The Mayoral report in the Agenda reads: As Councillors are aware, the General Manager Dr Catherine Dale wrote to me on 16 September 2021, as the Mayor, requesting a renewal of her contact for 12 months. The General Managers contract is due to expire on 30 June 2022. The General Manager is seeking a renewal of the contract from 1 October 2021 to 30 September 2022. This is in effect a three-month extension of the General Manager’s current contract (1 July 2017 – 30 June 2022). With the postponement of the local government elections until 4 December 2021, the onboarding of the new Council will not occur until January/February 2022. Within the first 12 months of a Council term, the Council must review and adopt a Community Strategic Plan, develop a Delivery Program and Operational Plan along with the review of all local policies and orders. The General Manager has indicated that the 12-month contract would ensure a seamless onboarding process and enable the new Council to establish a clear vision and direction for their term as Councillors. The Standard Contract of Employment for General Managers of Local Councils in New South Wales requires: Clause 5.1: ‘At least 9 months before the termination date (or 6 months if the term of employment is for less than 3 years) the employee will apply to Council in writing if seeking reappointment to the position’. Clause 5.2: ‘At least 6 months before the termination date (or 3 months if the term of employment is for less than 3 years) Council will respond to the employee’s application referred to in subclause 5.1 by notifying the employee in writing of its decision to either offer the employee a new contract of employment (and on what terms) or decline the employee’s application for re-appointment.’ As Councillors are aware, the Council elections have been delayed by a further three months which means that the new Council will not be declared until 23-24 December 2021. The Standard Contract requires Council to respond to the General Manager’s request at least six months before termination date which is currently 31 December 2021. Therefore, the General Manager’s request for a contract renewal must be resolved by the current Council, because the new Council will not have met and may not even be declared by that date. The current councillors next Tuesday will no doubt rubber stamp the recommendation that Council renew the contract of the General Manager, Dr Catherine Dale, for a period of 12 months commencing 1 October 2021.

Dr Catherine Dale, GM of Eurobodalla Shire Council


NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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