OUR shire council is about to make the most important decision any council can make – the appointment of a CEO for the next four years.Read more
It is the most powerful job in local government and in the right hands can help shape our community’s destiny to grow and prosper for decades to come.
The right person is one who commands respect without abusing their authority, is well-versed in financial management, public administration and local government law, and understands and accepts the right of elected bodies to oversee their work.
Unfortunately we have not seen much of those desired qualities in recent years.
The State Government says it has “reasonable suspicion” our council has breached local government laws and regulations over the past five years, and has ordered a wide-ranging formal inquiry into the shire and its administration.
This is not a witch hunt in response to a few frivolous or vexatious complaints from a handful of aggrieved troublemakers – it is a serious investigation with powers to take evidence under oath and refer any wrongdoing to the State Crown Solicitor’s Office or the WA Corruption and Crime Commission for criminal prosecution.
The inquiry also has powers to recommend that WA Local Government Minister David Templeman does whatever is needed to clean up the mess.
It will take time for the three State investigators working in Toodyay to get to the bottom of what’s been going on, and their report and any adverse findings are unlikely to be finished for several months.
Word on the street is that they have found a lot of work to do.
In addition, the shire’s latest annual report shows that it ran operating deficits averaging nearly $2 million over the past three financial years and was warned by shire auditors Moore Stephens in December that this “will erode the shire’s ability to service debt and maintain both its operational service level and asset base over the longer term”.
This is worrying news after the CEO’s initial bungling of costs for a new sport and recreation centre and swimming pool at the shire’s November 2017 meeting, and a rushed decision two weeks later to reduce borrowings to $2.7 million but still boost shire debt for the next 20 years.
It is against this backdrop that Shire President Brian Rayner has called a special meeting of the council on Tuesday February 19 to discuss whether to negotiate a new contract with the CEO.
It’s hard to understand why any public body would start talks on terms for a new contract with its top administrator while subject to a potentially damaging inquiry.
But that’s what President Rayner and Crs Paula Greenway and Judy Dow voted to do at last month’s council meeting.
The other five councillors (Cr Craig Brook was absent) – hold the absolute majority of votes required by law to make decisions of this magnitude and said the council needed to first decide if the CEO should keep his $223,000-a-year job.
Toodyay’s future will be in their hands on February 19.