ONE hour. That’s all South Gippsland Shire Councillors had to appoint someone to the $320,000-a-year position of Acting Chief Executive Officer, for the next 12 months.
In the end they chose to make an “internal” appointment.
Appointed at today’s council meeting (Wednesday, May 8), on a 6:1 vote by councillors, is the shire’s Director Development Services, Bryan Sword, the officer responsible for Planning, Economic Development, Tourism, Customer Service and Regulatory Services.
But the decision was not without its controversy.
Speaking against the process of appointment at today’s Special Council Meeting, rather than the decision to put Mr Sword forward, was Cr Aaron Brown.
“I will be voting against this because I feel that the entire process has been rushed to what would normally be involved. Many of the public view this process with alarm. I clearly state that my views have nothing to do with the candidates selected. They are competent and dedicated individuals. My issue is with the process that has been undertaken,” said Cr Brown, addressing the council with the only dissenting view.
Cr Brown claimed that the council only adopted the process of appointing an Acting CEO, not in response to the Minister’s show-cause notice, but after it decided not to renew the contract of the existing CEO Tim Tamlin some months earlier.
But he said that once the date of May 9 had been locked in by the Minister as the day council had to respond to the Municipal Monitor’s report “the race was on to appoint an Acting CEO to ensure a ‘Captains’ pick’ outcome by the Mayor Cr Don Hill.
Cr Brown went on to confirm that the existing CEO, Mr Tamlin, was the only applicant for the job but when the appointment committee decided not to appoint Mr Tamlin, the mayor sent out an email to all staff advising them of the situation.
Cr Brown said he didn’t receive a copy of the email and was only kept in the loop by a member of the public.
He said the community member who contacted him was outraged but Cr Brown said he wasn’t able to help him because he hadn’t been sent a copy of the final draft of the advice to staff.
“I received the original letter but not the changed draft,” he said, saying it was an “utter disgrace and a damning indictment on the council” and no wonder that the council had lost the confidence of the community.
Not enough time, said Cr Brown
“I only found out who the candidates were one hour ago. What an abuse of process and I absolutely refuse to be forced to make an appointment in such a botched and rushed way,” he said, earlier excluding himself from the “in camera meeting” while the selection was made.
He said the council didn’t need to appoint an Acting CEO, they already had a highly competent one on contract until June but claimed some on council weren’t prepared to accept that Mr Tamlin might be reappointed by an Administrator in the event the council was suspended or dismissed by the government.
He also said it was appalling that the mayor and the council had misrepresented the advice of the independent chair of the appointment committee, Phil Shanahan, maligning his 40-plus years of exemplary service in local government. He claimed the chairman’s clear advice was that the process of appointing an Acting CEO was unnecessary.
He said the ratepayers and residents of the shire were not fools and he encouraged councillors to “open your eyes and ears and understand the anger” that exists towards council in the community.
He asked council to vote down the motion to make an appointment and accept whatever came to pass after May 9, claiming council had “lost the moral authority to make such a decision”.
Cr Ray Argento generally dismissed what Cr Brown had to say and criticizing him for taking leave of absence “while most of this occurred and missed out on much of the information”.
He claimed any administrator appointed to the council would not have his “hands tied” by council’s decision to make an Acting CEO appointment, saying the administrator would have the power to overturn such an appointment, at what cost? He didn’t say.
He said council voted to appoint someone internal which was the thrust of the motion at the previous council.
He claimed council followed the proper process “as best we could” after the Minister’d show-cause letter.
“We have followed all processes and done everything correctly” from last year. He said the council was simply following the Minister’s directive to get on with the normal business of running the council.
He said Mr Tamlin had done a fantastic job for the shire but that it was council’s decision to look at making an alternative appointment.
Cr Argento did, however, acknowledge afterwards that he had only an hour to consider the appointment.
It was a fact that the Mayor Cr Hill also acknowledged but claimed the process of governance was beyond what was needed for the appointment of an Acting CEO.
“Normally the person would just step up to the role. You wouldn’t have any of this,” he said.
But Cr Hill didn’t refer to the fact that it was an appointment for 12 months and was being made with a Ministerial cloud hanging over the council’s future.