CEO selection conflict

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By Steph McNicol

THE selection of a new chief executive caused conflict at a Macedon Ranges Shire Council meeting last week, with Cr Geoff Neil claiming the process had been ‘manipulated’ and ‘belittled’.

The council is in the process of recruiting a new chief executive after the resignation of Margot Stork in September last year.

Councillors were discussing the formation of a panel to select a new chief executive officer following a motion by Deputy Mayor Mark Ridgeway, who suggested the committee include three councillors.

“I’m happy to move that our selection committee consists … of Mayor Anderson, Cr Death and Cr Guthrie. That’s a representative from each of the three wards, and as near as you can get gender-balanced out of three people – that’s what we’ve got,” Cr Ridgeway said.

“In moving this motion I’d just like to say that I’m of the view that when it comes to these committees, the smaller the better. After many years’ experience working on panel selection processes in the past, groups of about three people is probably the most effective group to work with.

“I think it’s very important in terms of how our council is seen by all of our residents and ratepayers that we actually have equal representation from each ward involved in it. I have every confidence in each of the people I have recommended to be on the [panel].”

But Cr Neil opposed Cr Ridgeway’s motion, and said he felt ‘grossly disappointed’ and ‘excluded’.

“Councillors, from the get-go you’ve been aware of my view in relation to the appointment of a chief executive. From day one I have always believed it’s all in or virtually nothing, and I look at this and say we have picked a nothing,” he said.

“You knew where I stood on this matter, that I wished to participate from go to end, and yet you’ve deliberately chosen to exclude me.

“To my mind that says heaps. Do I have confidence in the processes? The answer is no.

“I think it’s been manipulated as it was last time, but I’m not given the chance to be proven wrong.

“I think the other part for me is that, given this is the most important decision we will ever make in our four years, that you’ve decided to belittle it to three councillors.”

Mayor Cr Anderson advised Cr Neil to ‘be careful with [his] language’ and requested he withdrew the word ‘belittle’.

“Let it be noted that I requested the word belittle be removed, it’s a derogatory term towards a motion before us, each councillor is entitled to put a motion before us,” Cr Anderson said.

“Yes Cr Neil, this is one of the most important, if not the most important, decisions this council will make. If this motion is passed tonight, there is more than one person sitting in this room that would’ve passionately loved to have been on this committee.

“Whatever decision we make tonight, we all need to be united in that decision and work together.

“I have no doubt that whatever committee we choose, there will be openness and transparency between committee members and council … hopefully the process can run as smoothly as possible.”

The motion was carried with support of all councillors, except Cr Neil.

“Councillors, I think if you can’t find time to do the process as a whole, I often wonder why you’re here. I’m not devastated, just grossly disappointed in the motion before the chair,” Cr Neil said.