Geoff Helisma | Clarence Valley’s mayor, Jim Simmons, congratulated the council’s general manager (GM), Ashley Lindsay, “on his performance and achievements for the past year” at the September 18 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting. Mayor Simmons tabled the GM’s 12 month performance review. The GM’s performance agreement is a confidential document, prepared by Local Government Management Solutions. The performance appraisal was carried out by a performance review panel comprised of the mayor, deputy mayor Jason Kingsley and councillors Richie Williamson and Peter Ellem. The panel assessed and rated 25 ‘performance measures’, the outcome of which was provided to councillors confidentially. The review found that “the GM’s performance predominantly met council’s expectations for the year”. However, “four areas were identified as not meeting council’s expectations, including: the governance around ensuring our compliance against statutory reporting; the Council’s strategic focus, range and levels of service meet community expectations; reporting of financial management; and, business/service improvement – benchmarking and reporting”. The mayor subsequently told the Independent that the GM himself identified the four lacking areas in his report to the panel. “My experience with Ashley is that he is very hard on his own marking,” Cr Simmons said. Meanwhile, the mayor wrote in his mayoral minute: “There has been a significant [improvement] in the staff morale and communication between staff and councillors. “Overall, the strategic and operational objectives are meeting expectations and … concerns raised by the general manager [about] financial management and business/service improvement will be addressed during the next 12 months. “The foundations are in place for improved financial monitoring and reporting and for improved performance reporting to the community via a quarterly public report card for the 2018/2019 financial year.” At the September 18 council meeting, however, several councillors were taken by surprise, or as Karen Cr Toms put it: “It would have been nice if other councillors [not on the panel] were made aware” the review was underway. Councillor Toms was responding to Cr Baker, who said “councillors had the opportunity to make a submission at any time to the panel”. At this point, the mayor, Jim Simmons, apologised and said the criticism was “noted”. Councillor Debrah Novak, presumably referring to the confidential report: “How does the panel ascertain staff morale?” The mayor said this was measured through a survey facilitated by Local Government NSW. Works and Civil director Troy Anderson said 70 per cent of staff returned the survey, which general manager Ashley Lindsay said was an “exceptional response”. Councillor Greg Clancy said, in his “opinion”, that the operational side of CVC had “improved”, but he was “very concerned” that he was “not told or invited to make comment”. “I don’t feel I can vote on this today,” he said. Councillor Andrew Baker disagreed, saying he had known for 12 months that the review would be tabled, and that he had “taken the opportunity to write comments” and had “seen facets of CVC improve, in my humble opinion”. “Any councillor involved in the decision [to commission the review process] absolutely must know full well that this is what we planned and delivered,” he said. Councillor Arthur Lysaught had a similar opinion to Cr Baker’s. Councillor Karen Toms said she was “very happy with” Mr Lindsay’s performance and that he was “a pleasure to work with”. However, while acknowledging that Cr Baker was correct, she said she would “stick up for Cr Clancy”. “It would have been good to inform the rest of the governing body [that the review was underway], so people could put forward a view if they have one,” she said. Mayor Simmons said, “I apologise to councillors if they missed some procedural process” and said there would be a review of how the process was conducted for “future performance reviews”. Councillors Clancy and Debrah Novak voted against accepting the tabled performance review report.