City of Perth – Is it as bad as it looks?

The City of Perth have been copping a lot of flak recently. The latest is over the CEO/Acting CEO’s. I’m not privy to the inner-workings, but it seems pretty clear what is happening. A turf war.

The CEO goes on personal leave, citing an unsafe workplace, and appoints an acting CEO. Presumably the majority of the council is not happy with the choice of acting CEO, so gave notice of a motion (24 Feb) to amend an historic policy at a Special Council Meeting to be held on 27 February. The acting CEO then takes leave on similar grounds as the CEO (26 Feb). The CEO then states (27 Feb) that he will be returning on Tuesday next week and thereby, claims a different Director, negates the need for any acting CEO.

The policy in question gives the CEO the right to choose which Director acts as acting CEO when the CEO is on leave for more than 5 consecutive days, but less than 4 weeks. The amended City of Perth policy, as detailed in last night’s agenda (27 Feb), is similar to the existing policy, except it has a catch-all :

The CEO is usually the sole employee of the council (via their control of the local government as a body corporate) and person the council is responsible for hiring, managing and firing – the CEO is in turn responsible for all the other staff members in the local government.

Disregarding that I find it odd that the amended policy kept a portion of the previous policy which claims that all Directors are considered suitably qualified to act in the position of Chief Executive Officer, I believe that a council should have the right to ultimately determine who will be the acting CEO. So the policy change is fair enough and makes sense.

As to the other stuff going on, I have no idea. But the latest appears to be simply a battle between the majority of the council v’s sections of the senior administration in conjunction with the Mayor and a minority of Councillors. It is an epic battle over who controls things, and this makes it all the harder for the Minister of Local Government – does he side with the democratically elected council or the administration of the City? One would hope the default position would be the democratically elected council.

Of course, what complicates things is, in the public eye, the council appears dysfunctional due to the current game-playing, the Scaffidi gift saga and the secret investigation into the CEO which led him to take indefinite personal leave.

I would say the Minister needs to determine the validity of the claims from the CEO, (and one of the acting CEO’s), that there is an “unsafe work environment”. And whether the secret investigation into the CEO was legally authorised. These shouldn’t take long to determine.

I would also suggest that the council start speaking publicly on these issues, as well as advertising the governance improvements which have occurred over the last two or so years. Things like the ability for the public to now listen to recordings of council meetings (listen to last nights to appreciate the game-playing) and the reduction in allowances. The clock is ticking.

Interesting times ahead.

(Please be aware that these views are my own and have not been endorsed by the City of Bayswater.)