From the Newsroom

Retiring councillors control appointment of acting GM

Geoff Helisma

Come January next year, when a new council convenes in the Clarence Valley Council (CVC) chambers, four sitting councillors – Peter Ellem, Karen Toms, Greg Clancy and Deborah Novak – if they are re-elected, will be at odds with the appointment of CVC’s corporate and governance director, Laura Black, to the position of acting general manager.

At last week’s September 28 CVC meeting, the five retiring councillors – Andrew Baker, Richie Williamson, Jim Simmons, Jason Kingsley and Arthur Lysaght – supported Cr Simmons’ mayoral minute, which appoints Ms Black to the position from 4pm on November 26, 2021.

Ms Black is appointed to the role for “up to a period of no more than twelve (12) months or until such time as a general manager is appointed”.

Current general manager (GM), Ashley Lindsay, is transitioning to retirement by “taking leave, effective 4pm 26 November 2021 and concluding at 5pm 7 October 2022”.

The split decision “note[s]” that Ms Black will be paid the current general manager’s “total remuneration package of $305,298.30, with full accountability for assessment over the period, against the requirements of the GM’s 2021/2022 performance plan”.

The five-point resolution notes, “Responsibility for recruitment and appointment of a GM is that of the incoming council elected 4 December, and that the appointment takes effect after the GM’s resignation date of 7 October 2022.”

However, an unattributed answer (most likely the GM) to a Cr Toms’ ‘question with notice’, which asked if there was anything to “prevent a new council from altering” the council’s decision, stated: “No, I don’t believe so.”

At the November 2017 CVC meeting, three of the four councillors standing for re-election in December also voted against contract renewals for the three CVC directors at the time, Des Schroder, Troy Anderson and Ms Black (however, Ms Black, the former corporate support executive at Greater Taree Council, had only joined CVC weeks earlier) – Cr Toms was absent on that occasion and the three councillors’ reasoning was heard in a 20-minute confidential session and not released to the public.

At last week’s CVC meeting, the mayor provided the following reasoning for his nomination: “Ms Black acted in the role of GM and led and progressed a significant number of key projects … including securing the water licence and acquisition from Essential Energy of the Nymboida hydro power station infrastructure, implementation of the recently adopted organisational structure, recruitment of the director environment & planning, the upgrade and implementation of the Enterprise Asset Management System, the Calypso Holiday Park development and Yaegl Traditional Owners indigenous land use agreement discussions.

“Ms Black has also dealt with and resolved a number of outstanding customer complaints and enquiries, as has been noted by individual councillors via email, and, I am advised, managed some significant operational challenges, as well.

“Ms Black has formal qualifications in social sciences, planning and business administration and, as such, is well qualified to hold the position over an extended period.

“I believe Laura will progress the organisation toward its goals and will provide stability for the staff body and the organisation as it welcomes in a new council.”

Please view ” How a crack became a rift ” here