Friday, 22 June 2007

Keith's Letter to The Herald

The Herald's cartoon "A Guide to Newcastle Council Meeting Procedure" (Friday 22nd June 2007) appears to be designed to create the impression that Council meetings are violent, full of abuse and out of control; and to further create the perception that Newcastle City Council is "dysfunctional".

It is a damaging and totally false impression and an insult to the Lord Mayor and 12 councillors. I challenge the Herald to provide hard evidence that the cartoon has any basis in fact.

Further, The Herald article "Rate rise slips by meeting"(Friday 22nd June 2007) claimed that "it emerged yesterday that the 4 community submissions that several councillors said they had not seen, prompting Tuesday night's deferral had been available in the councillors' tearoom for more than a month".

In fact, the deferral was the result of the late delivery of a detailed staff report analysing 2 comprehensive submissions (by Hunter Business Chamber and Throsby Community Forum). The report should have been in the business papers given to councillors and released to the public the week before the meeting.

It was e-mailed to councillors' homes at 4.28 pm on Tuesday afternoon, after most had left to attend the meeting. Most had not seen the report. They needed adequate time to read and digest it and discuss it among their political groups.

The article also claims that "several members of the city's community forums described the councillors' latest pickle as a joke and a circus". Executive members of the affected forums have told me that they supported the councillors' actions and were outraged at the staff's treatment of their submissions.

Many cheered the decision to defer from the public gallery and have sent councillors supportive e-mails.

No doubt staff pressures resulted in the late delivery. Council's deferral, however, was the appropriate and proper decision and the only way to give the 2 community submissions the respect they deserve.

Cr Keith Parsons.
1/161 Scott St, Newcastle, 2300.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Council's response to GM outburst

Last night Newcastle City Council unanimously resolved the following regarding the General Manager's outburst:

1 Having obtained from the General Manager an explanation of her actions in this matter and on the basis of its legal advice Council:

(a) is satisfied that by making certain statements attributed to her in the Newcastle Herald on Saturday 5 May 2007, the General Manager has acted in breach of clause 11.3 of her contract of employment - terms of the said clause 11.3 are attached as a Appendix A; and

(b) expresses its disappointment and serious concern about the General Manager’s breach of her contract of employment and the resulting negative publicity for Council and warns the General Manager against any further breaches in her dealings with the media.

2 Council acknowledges the General Manager has expressed regret about her comments and the negative impact those comments have had on Council.

3 Council further directs the General Manager to develop, for Council's consideration, a draft Policy on “Public Comment by Council officials on Council Affairs” and as an interim measure, pending the General Manager’s further report, the Council proposes to adopt the draft Policy on those matters as prepared by its solicitors.

4 Council further notes that in accordance with the terms of her contract of employment, the General Manager’s annual performance review will be conducted in July 2007 (with an experienced facilitator as allowed by the contract, preferably appointed by the Local Government & Shires Association) which Council sees as an opportunity to address some of the issues referred to by the General Manager in recent statements.

5 Council reaffirms its commitment to continue building a professional and constructive partnership with the General Manager and Council’s Strategic Management Team.

Appendix A

Clause 11.3 of the General Manager’s Contract of Employment:

11.3 The employee covenants that in all dealings with the media the employee will use their best endeavours to ensure positive publicity for the Council in accordance with Council’s communication policy.