PORT Macquarie-Hastings councillors convened an extraordinary meeting on December 4 to seek clarity over the recruitment process to appoint council's new chief executive officer.
In July, mayor Peta Pinson, deputy mayor Lisa Intemann, Cr Sharon Griffiths and Cr Geoff Hawkins were appointed to the CEO recruitment selection panel following the resignation of general manager Craig Swift-McNair.
The panel shortlisted nine candidates for interview. In October, four candidates were selected to progress to the final round.
Heated debate erupted at the November ordinary meeting after Cr Pinson tabled a mayoral minute questioning some of the decision-making around interview selection procedures.
Recruitment processes are considered confidential under Section 10A(2)(a) of the Local Government Act 1993, as they contain personal matters concerning particular individuals (other than councillors).
Cr Pinson said a member of the panel, the deputy mayor, requested that an additional candidate be interviewed in the final round, taking the final number of interviewees to five. This was supported by one other member of the panel but was not agreed to as a majority, the mayor said.
Cr Pinson did not support the inclusion of the fifth interviewee.
She called for recruitment discussion to be moved into open council for transparency given the CEO is paid with public funds.
Her move was over-ruled after being contested by the deputy mayor, Cr Peter Alley and Cr Rob Turner on grounds of confidentiality and points of order.
The matter continued to simmer with the mayor publicly alleging after the November meeting that dysfunction continues to plague the elected body.
The December 4 extraordinary meeting was held in a confidential session to confirm CEO recruitment interview protocols and councillor attendance at those interviews.
Cr Lee Dixon was an apology.
Almost one hour later, the councillors resolved to note the NSW Local Government Act's recruitment process for a new CEO which "mandates selection and appointment of the candidate with the greatest merit" and does so with equal opportunity. It also agreed to maintain the confidentiality of the recruitment process.
It also resolved to maintain the status of the recruitment selection panel and its tasks in short-listing of candidates. The panel has reconvened to review applicants already interviewed, and any applicant who received a vote of support from two or more of the panel members was invited to proceed to the next round of interviews.
The expected final round of interviews will be conducted with a minimum of four of the seven councillors, however all councillors are invited to be a part of the process.
- Mike Cusato resigns as Port Macquarie-Hastings councillor
- Mayor calls out council's "warring factions" but fails in push for early election
- Former GM says there's strong evidence of council success despite "deep divisions"
- Opinion: Quiet unrest - a long road to council elections if they can't get along
- Cr Levido calls it quits and resigns from council role
Former general manager Craig Swift-McNair resigned from council in June to take up a new role at the helm of Woollahra Council in Sydney.
His decision came amid a storm of allegations from mayor Peta Pinson that council and the elected body had become a "warring faction" and she was the target of bullying and harassment.
Mr Swift-McNair's announcement came after a tense meeting on June 3 when the mayor made an attempt to push for an early election claiming the elected body's decision-making capacity in the community was ineffective.
Those claims were challenged by some councillors with the deputy mayor saying the mayor should raise these matters, with specific examples, "out of the public eye".
Mr Swift-McNair said before his departure that he believed the organisation is functioning effectively despite the most targeted claims yet made by the mayor that it has lost its way. He agreed to seek expert and independent professional support to explore some of those "relationship issues" for the elected body before he left.
Cr Justin Levido resigned shortly after the general manager's departure. Cr Mike Cusato resigned in 2019 for personal reasons.
In both cases, council agreed not to hold a by-election because the resignations at the time were close enough to the next local government elections.
Thank you for valuing local journalism with your subscription. While you're with us, you can also receive updates straight to your inbox from the Port Macquarie News. To make sure you're up to date with all the news, sign up here.