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NEWSLETTER 19 FEBRUARY 2011

Much has happened since ERA’s last newsletter. The Mayor’s astonishing secrecy, indecision and unconventional behaviour continues to shake confidence among ratepayers who want Eurobodalla to prosper with sound leadership and highly competent administration:-

SECRECY
ERA Bulletin of 28 November 2010 reported how the Mayor named Councillors who were members of the General Manager’s Performance Review Committee, but insisted ratepayers must not know the identity and qualifications of the Independent Facilitator from the Local Government and Shires Association.
The phantom facilitator was, presumably, engaged to provide expert guidance to the Review Committee. But the Committee secretly contrived a determination that exceeded authority under Local Government legislation. Decisions were later exposed as invalid.
Ratepayers, presumably, paid the phantom consultancy fee.
ERA believes this was the same LGSA representative who supported the GM’s original appointment.
Open and accountable local government has no room for silly secrets or inept decisions.

INDECISION
ERA wrote again to the Mayor on 10 February 2011. A copy of the letter and attachments is attached to this newsletter for you.
The letter includes an account of our first general meeting that was held on 24 January 2011, together with a list of the many points raised by concerned residents.
ERA’s letter reminds the Mayor the best part of a year has elapsed since the Community Forum, brought together by Council, recognised the necessity for an external review. Council subsequently resolved at an extraordinary meeting on 30 March 2010 that “Councillors, Executive Leadership Team and a small community task force identify and agree efficiency and effectiveness review options in consultation with the General Manager who will report these options and inform the Council of proposed actions.”
The Mayor was also reminded more than 3000 ratepayers endorsed ERA’s call for such a public enquiry.
A leader with vision could be expected to see this review as an opportunity to address community concerns, to deal candidly with past mistakes, to learn from them and carry the Shire forward.
ERA asked the Mayor to cease procrastinating and move forward decisively before the end of February.

UNCONVENTIONAL BEHAVIOUR
A most peculiar technique for improving media relations and credibility:-
In July 2008 Eurobodalla Shire Council issued a media release proudly announcing the appointment of a new General Manager. Our new man was described as having, among other winning attributes, very strong financial management experience and a Master of Business Administration from Deakin University.
On 25 January 2011 the Mayor slipped in a footnote “Addendum to media release”, informing whoever reads very old media releases “There was an obvious error ....... It should have read ........ a Graduate Diploma of Local Government Management from Deakin University”.
So obvious it was approved by Council for circulation, not noticed by Council’s Selection Committee, and remained uncorrected for more than two and a half years.

DOING OUR SUMS
ERA believes an external review would examine whether our cash strapped Council is making the most efficient use of funds and resources provided by ratepayers. Full Time Equivalent Staff numbers have hovered around 430 for the past five years, but expenditure on Employee Benefits and On Costs have blown out by more than $6million over the same period; from $M21.805 in 2006 to $M27.959 in 2010. In 2010 Employee Benefits and On Costs averaged roughly $65,000 per staff member. Overtime amounted to $648,000 or $54,000 per month.

COUNCIL’s EXECUTIVE TEAM
Council’s Annual Report lists the only senior staff member as the General Manager with a [then] salary of $253,800.
Well managed corporations, proud of their executive talent, commonly include in annual reports a brief account of the qualifications and skills each senior staff member contributes to corporate objectives; together with an indicative salary range.
Councils are required to include senior staff primarily responsible for strategic direction and receiving total remuneration equal or above NSW Senior Executive Service Level 1 [$155,100]. Absence of information about the six Directors reporting directly to the General Manager invites speculation.

RUMOURS
Rumours flourish when confidence and trust is broken. ERA members hear preposterous things that must be treated only as speculation until Council chooses to be more forthcoming. The staff survey, conducted with great promise but declared secret after its completion, is said to point to a sorry state of affairs that suggests managerial ineptitude. It is also rumoured that a review of the management structure is being obstructed by the Mayor. Perhaps clarification will be available before our next newsletter.

 

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