The Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association has slammed council’s decision to extend general manager Paul Anderson’s contract for a further five years, criticising both its timing and the manner in which it was done.
“While the decision has expensive and long-term consequences for all of the shire, it was taken in secret,” ERA chairman Geoff Plews said.
“The terms of Mr Anderson’s new contract have not been disclosed. Information about which councillors supported it is hidden.
“Eurobodalla Ratepayers Association is extremely disappointed by the way Mr Anderson’s re-appointment was handled.”
Mr Plews said councillors had failed to determine whether other suitable candidates were available and claimed the decision was inappropriately timed, given a new council would be elected in September.
He said the “short-sighted decision” could unnecessarily burden ratepayers with heavy compensation liabilities if future councillors wanted to employ someone else.
However, Eurobodalla Mayor Fergus Thomson defended the decision and its timing, saying it was made in line with advice from local government authorities.
He said there was little point in delaying a decision when it would then have to be made within months of the council election, potentially by newly elected councillors with little knowledge of the general manager’s performance to date.
Cr Thomson said to seek other
candidates would have cost about $40,000 and would have involved terminating Mr Anderson’s tenure.
Asked why a shorter, 12-month contract could not have been offered, the Mayor said it would likely have been rejected.
“No general manager to my knowledge would accept a 12-month contract,” he said.
Cr Thomson said a change of council created a “lot of hard work” for a general manager and no-one would expect them to go through that on a short contract, particularly after just receiving an “above average performance review”.
But Mr Plews was critical of the general manager’s performance over the past four years, citing staff
surveys and consultants’ reports as evidence.
He said an independent survey conducted by council showed council’s relations with the community were extremely poor and public uproar over the local environment plan was just one of many examples.
“Mr Anderson has had little impact on the introspective and secretive culture of the organisation,” Mr Plews said. “Nor has he put council in a strong financial position to face future challenges. The new 10-year financial plan shows a long string of future operating deficits, ever increasing rates and charges, and no clear strategy to return council’s budget to balance.
“Yet again Eurobodalla Shire has failed to convince Commonwealth and State authorities that this council would use a proper share of infrastructure funding as efficiently as competing councils. Private sector investors are bypassing the shire, local businesses are failing rapidly, property values are declining and many residents must search for employment outside the shire.
“Eurobodalla ratepayers will
benefit only when councillors are able to recognise the difference between activity and achievement, with real, measurable, on-the-ground improvements in roads, health services and appropriate environment protection.”