From the Newsroom

Council staff turnover made public

Rodney Stevens


Speculation about high staff turnover at Clarence Valley Council has led to a split 6 to 3 vote by councillors in favour of informing the community about how council staff resignations compare with neighbouring councils.

Government Information Public Access requests lodged by Yamba CAN Inc revealed 175 staff resigned from council between May 2021 and May 2023.

At the March 26 council meeting, Cr Debrah Novak put forward a motion which was seconded by Cr Karen Toms that:

Council informs community how Clarence Valley Council staff turnover rates in recent years compare to those of other councils.

Cr Ian Tiley asked Mayor Peter Johnstone if it was correct that council’s Audit Risk and Improvement Committee ARIC had sought an independent report on staff turnover, whether the report would be presented to council and if councillors could obtain the Terms of Reference of the investigation?

Cr Johnstone said after the ARIC investigation the committee’s Chair will present a report to council and councillors would be provided the investigation Terms of Reference.

Cr Novak said she put forward the motion as there had been a lot of speculation in the community that there has been “a lot of movement” (involving council staff) and she encouraged people to read the information in council’s business papers showing Clarence Valley Council staff turnover was less than all neighbouring councils.

The business papers showed council’s staff turnover as at December 30, 2023, was 12 per-cent, and at March 14, 2024, it was 14 per-cent.

This compared favourably to Ballina Shire’s figures of 13 per-cent in June 2022 and 18 per-cent in June 2023, Lismore’s 15.2 per-cent in February 2024, and Coffs Harbour’s 16.3 per-cent in June 2022 and 24 per-cent in February 2024.

Cr Toms said Cr Steve Pickering, council’s representative on the ARIC was only an observer, and she commended Cr Novak’s motion due to the speculation and misinformation in the community about council’s staff turnover.

“Let’s put this to bed…there seems to be this terrible belief that we are a bullying organisation…it’s out there and to me its defamatory to the organisation,” Cr Toms said.

Cr Tiley said the General Manager’s extensive comments on the business papers were using outdated figures.

“More detail on turnover reasons is necessary, given, especially the knowledge I’ve received from several former employees who sought me out over the past two years,” he said.

“I believe it remains important for council to understand why our competent staff are exiting, hence the need for complete exit interviews.”

Cr Tiley said it was premature to support Cr Novak’s motion, considering ARIC will be producing a report that will contain better and more up to date information.

Speaking for the motion, Cr Steve Pickering said to see actual statistics that show CVC is performing as well as our fellow LGA’s, or even better than our fellow LGA’s was great to see.

He said he had been contacted by eight former council staff, and none of them provided any information that they were bullied or harassed.

“I note than bullying and harassment were reasons used for why the staff turnover was so high in the Clarence Valley, but when I actually look at the rate of staff turnover in the Clarence Valley its lower than our fellow councils in the area,” he said.

Cr Bill Day then foreshadowed a motion that council takes no further action on this issue until the ARIC report has been received.

Cr Greg Clancy said he was concerned about the people, “the flesh and blood behind these statistics” and he hoped the ARIC report would be comprehensive and look at all side of the issue of why staff were resigning.

“The statistics put forward are only part of the story, it’s a much bigger story, and we need to know the full story before we make decisions in relation to this,” he said.

The motion was carried 6 votes to 3 with Cr’s Clancy, Day and Tiley voting against.