Secret council backflip reverses CEO vote
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
A SECRET council vote behind closed doors has allowed Shire CEO Stan Scott to keep his highly paid job for another year instead of losing it when his contract expires next month.
The extraordinary backflip was described next day on ABC Perth Radio’s Breakfast program as “very strange, sudden and unusual” and comes in the middle of a formal State Government inquiry into the Shire of Toodyay.
Shire CEO Stan Scott (left), President Brian Rayner and Deputy President Therese Chitty discuss a confidential shire report during an adjournment in a debate behind closed doors about allowing Mr Scott to keep his job.Read more
It caught some councillors by surprise after their 5-4 decision in March “to not offer Mr Scott a new contract of employment”.
A government inquiry based on ‘reasonable suspicion’ local government laws and regulations were breached during Mr Scott’s current and previous contract as shire CEO was announced last December.
It followed 10 months’ official monitoring and a warning that the shire had shown “not only a lack of understanding of the provisions of (Freedom of Information) legislation but also a propensity to misinterpret other legalities and procedures”.
Three Perth investigators were reported last month to be continuing their interviews with local ratepayers while gathering evidence for a report to WA Local Government Department Director General Duncan Ord and State Local Government Minister David Templeman.
A spokesperson for the department said that the Shire of Toodyay remained one of five WA councils subject to an “authorised inquiry” ordered by the State under Section 8.3 of the Local Government Act.
The inquiry was “still underway and a report will be prepared in due course” the spokesperson said.
In a separate development, Mr Scott and Shire President Brian Rayner were found last year to have breached the Shire Code of Conduct by publishing derogatory statements in the ratepayer-funded April 2018 Toodyay Community Newsletter.
Both have refused to apologise and told last month’s council meeting that it had no power to order them to apologise.
The shire also failed to “meet expectations” or had “not done” what was required in eight out of 11 areas examined in a highly critical WA Auditor General’s report on record keeping at four WA local government authorities tabled in State Parliament in April.
A motion by Cr Judy Dow to re-employ Mr Scott as interim CEO for a further 12 months next month did not appear in last month’s published council meeting agenda.
Ratepayers in the public gallery were ordered to leave the chamber for two items of ‘confidential business’, including ‘recruiting process and options for appointment of new CEO’.
The first item – a notice of motion by Cr Bill Manning that Mr Scott and President Brian Rayner apologise for breaching the Shire Code of Conduct last year – was excluded from the agenda by Mr Scott and President Rayner.
Cr Manning, seconded by Cr Ben Bell, moved a dissent motion against the exclusion.
It resulted in a 4-4 deadlock, with Crs Manning, Bell, Rob Welburn and Eric Twine voting to reinstate the item, and President Rayner, Deputy Shire President Therese Chitty and Crs Judy Dow and Paula Greenway against.
President Rayner then used his casting vote to defeat the motion 5-4.
Mr Scott left the chamber when the second item – a confidential report by People and Projects Manager Tina Phillips about hiring a new interim CEO – was moved by Cr Rob Welburn and seconded by Cr Eric Twine.
It was lost 6-2 with only Crs Manning and Bell in favour after Cr Dow foreshadowed an alternative motion to offer Mr Scott another 12 months in the job.
President Rayner adjourned the meeting while he and Deputy President Chitty left the chamber to call WA Local Government Association (WALGA) compliance manager Tony Brown in Perth for advice.
Ratepayers waiting outside the shire building saw the pair through a window talking to Mr Scott in a side room about a confidential shire report marked in red that had not been given to the public gallery.
When the meeting behind closed doors resumed with Mr Scott still out of the chamber, Cr Dow moved to revoke a 6-1 council decision carried in her absence on May 14 that the shire ask the Local Government Department and WALGA for a list of potential interim CEO candidates.
Cr Dow spoke from prepared notes and said she had already asked Mr Scott if he could stay for another 12 months.
She provided no prior notice to the council of her alternative motion before debate on it started behind closed doors.
Her motion to revoke the council’s May 14 decision was supported by Crs Greenway and Welburn, who were joined by President Rayner, Deputy President Chitty and Cr Twine to pass it 6-2, with Crs Manning and Bell against.
President Rayner accepted Cr Manning’s request that every councillor’s vote be recorded in the minutes.
Cr Dow then moved her alternative motion, seconded by Cr Welburn, to offer Mr Scott a “temporary” CEO job for 12 months when his contract ends on July 22.
It was again carried 6-2, with Crs Manning and Bell opposed, and Cr Manning again asked that every councillor’s vote be recorded.
President Rayner told The Herald he expected details of the CEO’s new temporary contract to be considered at the next ordinary council meeting at 4pm on Tuesday on June 25.
Mr Scott’s current contract includes a total financial package worth $222,791 a year – reviewable annually – unrestricted private use of a local government vehicle – including during annual, long service and other paid leave – for himself and a spouse, five weeks’ paid annual leave and all gazetted WA public holidays.