Council rift on policy shift
Greater Shepparton City councillors Fern Summer and Sam Spinks have voted against a new policy that will appoint a five-person committee to deal with the appointment, remuneration and performance of the council’s chief executive.
Cr Summer told the August meeting she was saddened that a policy that could ultimately lead to as few as a quorum of three people dealing with chief executive-related matters was being supported.
“We employ one person, the CEO is our only employee, there is no reason why we should reduce or outsource councillor participation in overseeing our one employee’s performance,” she said.
“We are all elected in our own right and will inevitably have differing views on what we expect from the person leading the organisation.”
Under the policy, the mayor and deputy mayor will automatically have a seat at the committee table along with two appointed councillors. The fifth member will be an independent external person engaged through an advertised expression of interest process. The independent member must have proven experience in human resource management or executive level recruitment and extensive experience in working in business or with local government.
The committee would oversee employment, performance management, annual reviews and setting of key performance indicators for the chief executive.
Cr Seema Abdullah moved a motion to adopt the policy, which she said reflected best practice.
“Although it is new for our council it is the best-practice approach in organisations to efficiently and effectively manage CEO employment matters,” she said.
“The presence of an independent member is encouraging because it will definitely add to the good governance approach, accountability and transparency.”
Cr Anthony Brophy and Cr Rob Priestly also supported the policy.
“The only employee the councillors employ is the CEO, who in turn employs the rest of the organisation,” Cr Brophy said. “It is very important we get it right and have a policy that reflects that.”
Councillors tried to reassure Cr Summer that those not on the committee would still have input. “If any councillor has concerns about the performance of the CEO that point can be put across quite easily in discussion with committee members,” Cr Geoff Dobson said. “It is an efficient and modern way of doing it.”
Cr Priestly said the smaller committee was in line with best practice for many organisations and the policy would still allow all councillors to contribute, but Cr Summer wasn’t buying it.
“Offering feedback from outside this committee, when you are outside the loop, it might be efficient for people inside the loop but it is certainly not as effective as a collective robust conversation with all nine of us in a room,” she said.
“It runs the risk of bias within the committee, it may silence those with strong viewpoints who are not on the committee. It is a hard no from me, I actually think we are taking 10 steps back in even proposing this.”
Cr Abdullah had the final say in the debate, telling Cr Summer the committee was not making decisions, just doing the work and making recommendations to council.
“The final decision and authority still resides with council, I hope that allays your concerns,” she said.
The motion to adopt the policy passed seven votes to two.