Rayner struggles on ABC Radio to explain CEO backflip
May 29 interview* by ABC Radio Perth Breakfast Show presenters Nadia Mitsopoulos and Russell Woolf (left) with Toodyay Shire President Brian Rayner the morning after the council’s surprise offer to re-employ CEO Stan Scott for another 12 months.
Russell: Well something very strange is going on at the Shire of Toodyay.READ MORE
Recently the council voted not to renew the contract of their CEO Stan Scott when it ran out in July.
Now that is not overly unusual and it’s not necessarily a reflection on the CEO’s performance.
Sometimes councils and their CEOs just decide to go their own ways.
Nadia: But what’s unusual is that last night they suddenly changed their minds and gave him another 12-month contract.
Now this is for a job that is worth more than $200,000 a year and all of this while there is a departmental inquiry underway into the Shire of Toodyay investigating possible breaches of the Act and fresh elections are due in October.
So what’s going on here?
Let’s ask Brian Rayner – he’s the Toodyay Shire President – good morning to you.
President Rayner: Good morning Nadia.
Nadia: Now why did the council change its mind about the CEO’s contract?
President Rayner: No what actually happened was that council put out a council resolution last night that they would employ a temporary CEO and involve WALGA, the WA Local Government Association, to instigate the process.
It was $2000 for the actual process to go ahead and council voted that they shouldn’t pay $2000 to WALGA to instigate the program.
There was also an alternative motion flagged at the same time that if this officer’s resolution didn’t get up that the alternative motion could be heard.
Nadia: So you didn’t want to pay $2000 to WALGA to go through the process of a new CEO but you were happy to pay over $200,000 to bring back a CEO that the council had voted not to renew his contract?
President Rayner: Not quite right. We would still have had to pay up $200,000 for a temporary CEO whether we got it from WALGA or whether we re-employed the current CEO.
Russell: So it was to save the $2000 though you decided you would re-employ the current CEO.
President Rayner: Yeah, well that was more or less because we can do it in-house. We have the skills to draw up a contract for the current CEO provided the current CEO is of approval of their contract that’s drawn up.
Russell: Now as we said at the outset about the CEO – and this is not a comment about the CEO at all – but you as a council had decided that you wanted to move on from this CEO?
President Rayner: That was voted back in March not to renew his contract, yes, but in the interim because of the inquiry which is by the Department of Local Government and that started on the 6th of December and then also we’ve had a ward review to coincide with the election coming up in October and council voted that they get rid of the wards.
We have four wards. We have north, south, east and west, and nine councillors.
We put up a resolution to the Department of Local Government board advisory that we would abolish wards and retain nine councillors and that would come up in the October election and there will be five vacancies.
Russell: How does that reflect on the role of the CEO?
President Rayner: The CEO, the people that councillors have voted for back in March believed that a temporary CEO be employed for a period while the inquiry was on and also the new councillors in October if we employed a temporary CEO for six months.
Councillors in October that were newly elected or the current ones that re-sat would have a chance of employing a new CEO.
Nadia: But wouldn’t it be fairer to have a interim one given that there is an investigation underway as well?
President Rayner: There’s been no allegations or anything drawn against the shire by the inquiry so far.
Nadia: No, because the investigation is still going on.
President Rayner: Yes, it could be going like the City of Perth, go for two and a half years.
Nadia: Why is the investigation underway?
President Rayner: People outside the department and it is pushed by the paper and the Toodyay Progress Association that the Shire of Toodyay is not compliant with any of their rules and regulations and that’s why they the outside people have asked for an inquiry into the shire and because the inquiry is conducted by the Department of Local Government that is what the process is.
Russell: And so since the last election has there been a significant change to personnel in terms of shire councillors?
President Rayner: Yes.
Russell: And has that impacted on the vote? I don’t want to say in the confidence of the CEO but whether to employ him or not?
President Rayner: Yes, there has back in October 2017 we had four new councillors and one of them resigned after four months of employment as a councillor and then we had a long-standing councillor of 13 years due to her own personal reasons and health decided to resign so we had an extraordinary election in June last year and two new councillors were elected.
One of those councillors, one month after he was elected, applied for six months’ leave of absence to work in the eastern states so he was not more or less participating as a councillor.
He was just a figurehead as a councillor more or less so he didn’t attend meetings.
I think he attended one in December when he come back for Christmas and then he came back for the one in March when we voted to not renew the CEO’s contract.
Russell: So if I’ve got this right, the votes were originally 5-4 in favour of removing the CEO and then with the new stock at the chamber it was 6-2 in favour of retaining the CEO?
President Rayner: Yes that’s correct.
Nadia: Do you see how this just doesn’t quite seem right if you just look at this from a ratepayers’ point of view that demands transparency and accountability?
Surely you can see how people would be questioning why you don’t renew the contract of the CEO and then suddenly decide and – putting your $2000 aside – surely this can’t be the only reason that you then say ‘actually no, we will have him back?’
President Rayner: No, also in Toodyay at the moment we have four major projects in operation. The CEO has been across all those.
Nadia: Yes but it’s not hard for a new CEO to get across projects, I mean transition periods are pretty thorough these days. I understand what you are saying, I probably just don’t buy it.
President Rayner: OK well that was the view of the council, whether you buy it or not, that is the view of the council that because of the four big projects, which is the sport and recreation precinct project of about $14 million, we have a new Nunile-Coondle fire shed which is $450,000, we have a new re-roofing of the Newcastle Gaol with shingles on it which is a $300,000 project and we’ve also got a $300,000 project for renovations to the Morangup Community Centre.
So there’s some big projects happening just this year and the CEO has been across all those and the council believe that it was better to have a person across the board that knew exactly what was going on and they will be giving him a 12-month temporary CEO’s contract provided the CEO and council can agree with that contract.
If he doesn’t then we will go out to the open market again.
Russell: We really appreciate you explaining to us this morning – Brian Rayner is the Toodyay Shire President.
Toodyay sounds like it’s got a pretty proactive period of growth coming up and it would be exciting to be out there – there’s a lot going on.
Nadia: There’s an interesting text that has come through that says “listen to you Nadia, it sounds like you’ve got the horse in this race”.
Well I don’t but I don’t see any problem in asking questions when it comes to accountability and transparency.
Now I think this is rather odd when a council decides not to renew the contract of a CEO.
There are potential breaches being investigated – I’m not saying they may be related at all to the CEO – but an investigation is underway, and then you suddenly change your mind.
I think it is fair enough to ask some questions about that.
Russell: Yes and with people that had voted against the CEO now no longer in the council and supporters of the CEO – let’s say – come in, it’s worth looking, it’s worth talking about.
Nadia: They spend ratepayers’ money and I think that these questions need to be asked.
*Reproduced with ABC Radio Perth permission.