Departure should have raised questions

Gosford's Council Chambers.

Forum –

During the tenure of the Administrator, the Forum page was full of demands that a representative Council be put in place to reflect the will of ratepayers and return us to the state of perfection that prevailed before the previous councils were removed from office.

We now have had three years of representative government, and what is the result, an $89M deficit disaster that we ratepayers will have to stump up for, for years to come. (Chronicle, Oct 7, page 1)

I don’t suggest that the Administrator was perfect, as I was critical of him on numerous occasions, but the staggering incompetence of the Council does lead to second thoughts about the powers entrusted to councils and to the degree of surveillance exercised at the state level to protect us from mismanagement.

First, it is obvious that the prime responsibility for the debacle has to be borne by the CEO.

In six months under his eye, the deficit has blown out from $41M to a mind-boggling $89M, without any explanation.

If he was not aware of what was happening, he is clearly not competent for his job and should go.

If he was aware and did not alert Council, he is clearly too irresponsible for the post and should go.

The departure of four Chief Financial Officers on his watch should surely have raised some questions about what was happening, particularly if, as it now seems, there were significant financial irregularities being sanctioned by the administration.

I should think that there is a clear case for dismissal for failure to carry out duties, and the sooner the better.

That said, the ultimate burden lies with the Council and with the individual councillors who allowed this situation to develop.

“We didn’t know” and “nobody told us” does not suffice as excuses.

It is Council’s job to know how its affairs are being handled and to take ultimate responsibility for directing the work of its staff and ensuring that Council resources are properly managed.

With the abysmal failure confronting us, we should be lobbying the Minister for removal of the Council from office without delay, and it is my intention to write directly to the Office of Local Government in this vein.

I urge every ratepayer in the region to take this step as well, so that the Minister is made fully aware of the depth of our concern, as without that, it is highly probable that nothing will happen.

In fairness, I must admit that Councillor Best has made several attempts to shine a light on the Council’s financial situation but has been stymied by the opposition of other councillors.

The basis for this opposition should be exposed, so that blame can be properly sheeted home.

One possible explanation is that too many of our councillors have too many outside interests to allow them enough time for the job they are supposed to be doing for us.

However, our full-time, highly paid Mayor does not seem to have been any better informed than councillors who, at least, have the cover that the Council is only a part-time job.

Email, Oct 9
Bruce Hyland, Woy Woy

EDITOR’S NOTE: In a report to Central Coast Council’s meeting on October 12, CEO Gary Murphy said that since the merger of Wyong and Gosford council, there has been two not four ongoing Chief Financial Officers. He said two internal staff members temporarily acted in this role when the position was unfilled.