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Mitchell Shire Council changes CEO payment committee

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ALL nine Mitchell Shire councillors could sit on a subcommittee that decides chief executive Brett Luxford’s pay and vets any future candidates for the post after changes adopted at last month’s council meeting.

Cr Louise Bannister moved to amend council’s Chief Executive Officer Employment and Remuneration Policy to expand the number of possible councillors on a subcommittee convened to hire a chief executive and determine their salary.

The committee also reviews the chief executive’s performance on an annual basis.

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Currently the mayor, deputy mayor, two other councillors and one independent member appointed by the council sit on the committee, but Cr Bannister moved the requirement for two councillors other than the mayor and deputy Mayor to be changed to ‘at least two other councillors’.

She said it would enable councillors to better understand the challenge faced by its chief executive.

“As we are all elected to represent our community, it seems undemocratic to limit the number of representatives on this committee,” she said.

“This committee allows for greater understanding of the difficulties and challenges the CEO faces in our organisation, [and] sets the KPIs [key performance indicators] that council and the CEO determine will be of most benefit in meeting our community vision and council plan.”

Cr Lowe said while he understood Cr Bannister’s reasons for moving the amendment, having five or more councillors on the subcommittee would give them a voting majority, making the decision a foregone conclusion.

“Once we start having a subcommittee of five or possibly more, then we really have made the full council redundant,” he said.

“I think it’s essential that the number of delegates on a subcommittee should be kept below the magic number of five.

“My request would be that we stay with that current setup, because that means they then report back to the full council and it’s the full council that has the decision-making power, not the subcommittee.

“By moving to a majority of councillors on the subcommittee, you are obviating the necessity of a report back to the full council.”

Cr Sanderson said while it was ‘good to question the process’, adding more members to the subcommittee would also encumber it.

“All of us would have had a performance review … in our lifetimes, and it’s very nerve-racking,” she said.

“This would … mean all nine councillors plus the one independent member – so 10 people – could be on the subcommittee in the room talking to the CEO as part of the review twice a year, which I think is a bit much, quite frankly.

“In practice you probably wouldn’t get all nine councillors, but there is the potential for that.

“I think it’s unwieldy to try to have nine people in a room talking to a CEO about their review. It’s intimidating and it’s very inefficient.”

Cr Bannister said she believed councillors would keep an open mind even if a majority of them sat on the subcommittee.

“Even if the subcommittee did have a majority of councillors on it … councillors in the official meeting have to listen to the debate and in the end have to make up their own mind,” she said.

“They may change them according to the debate of the other councillors involved on the night.

“Due to the importance of this committee, I think it’s more detrimental to prevent participation than to have a majority on the subcommittee.”

A second part of Cr Bannister’s motion also allowed other councillors to sit in on the chief executive remuneration committee without participating if they wished.

The motion passed, with Cr Bannister, Cr Annie Goble, Cr Bill Chisholm and Mayor Fiona Stevens in favour and Cr Lowe, Cr Sanderson and Cr Nathan Clark opposed.

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