Thursday, 2 March 2017

Clarence Valley Council: a local government history lesson......

In August 2011 it was announced that Clarence Valley Council had a new general manager, Scott Greensill.

Mr. Greensill came to the Clarence Valley trailing considerable baggage from his previous position as Singleton Council’s general manager.

It has been an open secret ever since that Clarence Valley Council staff have become disturbed by an uncomfortable ‘atmosphere’ developing in the workplace - as well as residents, ratepayers and a numbers of councillors being unhappy with a perceived decrease in local government administrative transparency and those project cost blowouts amounting to millions of dollars.

From 2011 through to the 2016 local government election the general manager had the unwavering support of then Clarence Valley mayor, Richie Williamson.

So much so that an effort was made to entrench the general manager’s position ahead of the 2016 local government election.

The Daily Examiner, 23 February 2015:

The publication of the minutes of the meeting on Friday revealed council has offered Mr Greensill a new five-year contract incorporating his existing job description and remuneration package.

But the vote to approve the new contract did not include Crs Baker and Toms, who, according to the minutes, left the chamber before it was concluded.

The remaining seven councillors voted unanimously to renew the general manager's contract to run from February 17, 2015 to February 16, 2020.

It took the intervention of a member of the public, Geoff Helisma, to encourage councillors to debate whether the matter should be public or heard in private.

Mr Helisma said he was worried renewing the general manager's contract at this point meant the next group of councillors elected in September next year would have a general manager they had no say in selecting.

He pointed out this had been a consideration when the State Government's review of local government ruled councils could not appoint a general manager less than six months out from an election.

This was a North Coast Voices post published on Monday 23 February 2015:

How to constrain an incoming council in one easy lesson

It took Council in the Chamber less than twenty-six minutes to decide to renew the general manager's $240,000 contract, approve additional financial provisions and extend his employment to 17 February 2020 - thereby binding the next duly elected Clarence Valley Council to a particular general manager for all but the last seven months of its four-year term in office.

So rushed was this process that it appears that the new employment contract was signed on the night.
Five excerpts from Clarence Valley Council Ordinary Monthly Meeting Minutes of 17 February 2015:
(Crs Williamson/McKenna) 
Council resolve itself into Committee of the Whole and the press and public be excluded to allow consideration of one confidential report 10.001/15: In accordance with Section 10A(2)(a) of the Local Government Act 1993, it is recommended that as the matter contains personnel matters concerning a particular individual (other than Councillors) that the matter be dealt with in closed session.

Voting recorded as follows

Councillors Williamson, McKenna, Hughes, Lysaught, Simmons, Howe, Kingsley
Councillors Baker, Toms

2. The microphones were turned off, live streaming ceased and the press and public were excluded from the Chamber.
Council moved into the Committee of the Whole at 9.21 pm to consider Item 10.001/15.....
The Ordinary Council meeting resumed at 9.47 pm.

(Cr Williamson)

(a) That Council enter into a Deed of Variation with Mr Scott Greensill to vary the current contract of employment between Council and Mr Scott Greensill by deleting the words “or at the most 18 months” from Clause 5.3 and that the Common Seal of the Council be affixed to the Deed.

(b) That subject to the Deed referred to in Paragraph (a) above being executed by Council and Mr Scott Greensill, Council offers Mr Scott Greensill a new five year contract of employment, incorporating the existing job description, and inclusive of a total remuneration package equal to his current total remuneration package, to commence on 17 February 2015 (or as soon as the documentation is executed) and terminating on 16 February 2020 (or 5 years after commencement).

(c) That the contract of employment be in accordance with the standard contract required by the NSW Office of Local Government.

(d) That the Mayor be authorised to negotiate the employment contract terms applicable to provision of a Council motor vehicle to Mr Greensill to be consistent with Council’s standard policy arrangements for provision of motor vehicles to other staff.

(e) That Schedule A under Clause 4.5 of the contract of employment extend the application of the following Council Policies to the General Manager:

• Gifts and Benefits
• Reimbursement of Legal Costs to Staff
• Business Credit Card Use
• Motor Vehicle Management Protocol
• Sick Leave/Carer’s Leave
• Staff Travelling Expenses 
(f) That the contract of employment be executed by affixing the Common Seal of the Council.

Voting recorded as follows

Councillors Williamson, Hughes, Howe, Simmons, McKenna, Lysaught, Kingsley
Noting that Crs Baker and Toms were absent from the Chamber and did not vote 
(Crs Hughes/Simmons)

Council move out of the Committee of the Whole and the Ordinary Meeting resume.

Voting recorded as follows
Councillors Williamson, Howe, Hughes, Simmons, McKenna, Lysaught, Kingsley

Noting that Crs Baker and Toms were absent from the Chamber and did not vote.

5. Cr Baker, Cr Toms, Scott Greensill, Troy Anderson, Des Schroder, Ashley Lindsay and Kristian Enevoldson returned to the Council meeting at 9.53pm...... 
There being no further business the meeting closed at 9.53 pm. 

Guidelines for the general manager performance management framework under section 23A of the Local Government Act 1993 (July 2011) state:

Performance review panels should comprise the mayor, the deputy mayor,
another councillor nominated by council and a councillor nominated by the general manager. The council’s governing body may also consider including an
independent observer on the panel. Panel members should be trained in the
performance management of general managers.
The role of the review panel includes:
* conducting performance reviews
* reporting the findings and recommendations of those reviews to council
* development of the performance agreement.
The governing body of council and the general manager may agree on the
involvement of an external facilitator to assist with the process of performance
appraisal and the development of new performance plans. This person should be selected by the governing body of council or the performance review panel. 
As had been done in previous years, a performance review was undertaken in 2016.
On 19 February the four-man Performance Review Committee for 2015-16 (Crs. Williamson, Howe, Simmons and Lysaught) undertook a review of the General Manager’s performance (facilitated by Mike Colreavy) covering the year of his employment contract from 17 February 2015 to 16 February 2016 and Council-in-the-Chamber endorsed the performance review report 7 votes to 2.

Rather oddly, at the post-2016 local government election extraordinary council meeting of 27 September 2016 when council committee memberships were allocated there was no mention of forming a new Performance Review Committee for 2016-17 .

Presumably that situation was a part-reason for this item placed on the agenda of the 21 February 2017 Clarence Valley Council ordinary monthly meeting by current mayor, Jim Simmons:

That the Confidential Mayoral Minute (Item 11.001/17) on the General Manager’s Performance Agreement
– Proposed Variation be brought forward and considered as the next item of business. CARRIED.
Mr Scott Greensill declared an interest and left the Chamber at 4.03 pm.
That Council move into Confidential Session to consider Item 11.001/17. CARRIED.
The press and public were excluded from the meeting at 4.04 pm.
That Council move back into open forum at 4.47 pm. CARRIED.
The press and public were invited to return to the Chamber.
That Council adopt the motion in Confidential Session as follows:
1. Council seek agreement with the General Manager for the General Manager’s performance review to be undertaken under the terms of the guidelines for the appointment and oversight of general managers issued by the Office of Local Government July 2011 noting that the request that, in open Council, one Councillor (other than the Mayor, Deputy Mayor, and General Manager’s nominee) will be appointed to the Performance Review Committee as requested by the General Manager and one Councillor will be nominated by the General Manager.
2. If agreement is not reached then the matter be reported to Council.
Voting recorded as follows:
For: Simmons, Baker, Clancy, Ellem, Williamson, Toms, Novak
Against: Kingsley
That subject to agreement to Point 1 by the General Manager, a Councillor be appointed to the Performance Review Committee. CARRIED
That Councillor Ellem be appointed to the Performance Review Committee. CARRIED.
Mr Scott Greensill returned to the meeting at 4.55 pm.

The result of this council resolution appears to be that the current Performance Review Committee is almost certain to be composed of Crs. Simmons, Kingsley, Ellem and the councillor nominated by the general manager which is likely to be either Williamson or Lysaught.

A committee profile with which Mr. Greensill may not be in wholehearted agreement.

Enquiries from local media have elicited a statement from Clarence Valley Council that the General Manager has since gone on “sick leave” until 13 March 2017.

Unconfirmed rumour on social media suggests that Greensill has in fact resigned.

In recent years it has been rumoured that he was eager to obtain employment outside of the Clarence Valley for 'personal' reasons.

This is a Clarence Valley Council meeting notice in March 2017:

There is no business paper currently available for this extraordinary meeting and for the most part it will be dealt with in confidential session, so residents and ratepayers may have to wait until the local grapevine kicks in to flesh out whatever the meeting minutes reveal.


The 3 March 2017 extraordinary meeting took a whole 8 minutes to move into a closed session which lasted approx. 1 hour & 21 minutes and, then a further 6 minutes to unanimously pass a motion to the effect that the closed session resolution/s concerning the General Manager's employment contract is to remain confidential and close the meeting.

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