SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council’s Cr Aaron Brown said he was told just 20 minutes before last Wednesday’s meeting of a planned motion to vote on CEO Tim Tamlin’s future.
“I appreciate the two councillors who came and told me,” he told The Mirror.
Cr Brown was away on leave from the conclusion of Council’s February 27 meeting until April 6.
Mayor Cr Don Hill refutes any suggestion that Cr Brown was not kept in the loop. He said the issue was discussed and minuted in a CEO Employment and Remuneration Committee meeting, and sent out to all councillors about two weeks ago. He said the document explicitly stated that a motion would be proposed at Council’s April 24 meeting to vote to seek applicants for a new CEO.
The remuneration committee document is private and cannot be released to the public. This paper can not confirm its contents.
At last Wednsday’s Council meeting councillors voted to convene a special meeting for Wednesday, April 8 to announce an interim CEO for 12 months.
The motion, proposed by Cr Ray Argento, called for the appointment to be dealt with as “urgent business” as “Council may not be in a position to approve the CEO’s position before the expiry of the current contract”.
The meeting was not listed as an item on the agenda. Speaking after the vote, Cr Hill confirmed that the May 8 meeting would see councillors vote on who would take the role of acting CEO. The position would be held for 12 months from June 25, with candidates drawn from within Council.
“Appropriately experienced and qualified South Gippsland Shire Council employees have been invited to express an interest in the role,” he said.
Asked whether Mr Tim Tamlin would be asked to apply, the Mayor said, “Of course.” He could not say how many would apply, but that there were “a number of internal staff that, in the opinion of the Council body, are more than capable of performing this role”.
Cr Brown was the only councillor who voted against the motion, which is set one day before the May 9 deadline given by Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek for councillors to address concerns raised by Municipal Monitor Peter Stephenson.
Council is reeling from allegations of bullying, with four councillors quitting in recent times. Cr Brown has backed the claim. Another, Cr Jeremy Rich, has announced his resignation from May 9, as he faces drugs charges.
Councillors face a possible suspension, depending on the Minister’s thinking on the issue. Cr Hill said that even in the event of a suspension, the interim CEO’s position would remain. “Twelve months is 12 months,” he said.
In the preamble to proposing the motion, Cr Argento said, “It’s the Minister’s view that we continue with business as usual.”
“Councillors would be aware that we were proceeding down the line in regard to the CEO’s contract,” he said.
“There’s the desirability of providing a degree of continuity and certainty to South Gippsland Shire Council employees about the leadership of the organisation after the 24th of June, 2019.”
He also cited the importance of protecting “employee morale” during “the uncertainty surrounding Council’s immediate future”.
He argued that it was important to fill the CEO position on an interim basis because of the “possibility of diminished market interest in the permanent CEO role in the current environment and the consequence of the
reduced likelihood of interest in the position from highly credentialled applicants”.
Cr Andrew McEwen seconded the motion.
Cr Brown said he did not “believe regarding this particular position that the processes have been followed”.
“I question why we would be pushing for a CEO appointment given our predicament – potentially facing a suspension or a dismissal. I also believe this decision could be perceived as potentially tying the commissioners’ hands behind their backs if the worst-case scenario was to happen, and we were suspended or were dismissed,” he said.
He asked fellow councillors, “Why are we rushing this process?” “Given the track record, and the situations of recent times, I don’t trust us to be able to make this decision,” he said.