Murphy reluctant to act as financial chief – Inquiry

Former Central Coast Council CEO, Gary Murphy

Former CEO Gary Murphy told the Council Public Inquiry that he reluctantly took on the added burden of Chief Financial Officer of Central Coast Council in August 2020 when the person acting in the position, Carlton Oldfield, stepped down.

Murphy said he was reluctant to take on the position since being CEO was a full time role but there was no alternative in the short term until he was able to appoint the current CFO Natalia Cowley.

Cowley arrived immediately after the financial crisis in October 2020, the crisis which resulted in the Councillors being suspended and an administrator brought in to replace them.

The administrator sacked CEO Murphy as one of his first decisions.

Murphy was giving his testimony at day four of the hearings of the Public Inquiry into Central Coast Council.

The inquiry was called in April of this year.

Murphy said he did not have CPA (certified practising accountant) or other training so he utilised staff within the organisation while he was CFO.

“There was another staff member within the innovation and futures area who was a qualified CPA, and I would pass any concerns that I had, including reports or journals, to her and ask for her professional opinion on that before I made a decision,” Murphy said.

Murphy became CEO in July 2018 at a time when the Council had been without a CFO for some months.

The Council remained without a permanent CFO until Craig Norman joined Council in 2019.

However, Norman then left the organisation in April 2020.

Murphy said Norman left for personal reasons.

“I also have to say that I did put a fair degree of pressure on him to deliver the PwC (Price Waterhouse Cooper) report that I commissioned, and also to address the budgeting process, but he left of his own volition in April 2020,” Murphy told the Commissioner Roslyn McCulloch.

Murphy faced questioning for about an hour on day four.

On day five and six, October 7 and 8, eight of the Councillors will give their testimony live. Watch the YouTube vision on the Office of Local Government channel.

So far, suspended Councillors Jane Smith, Lisa Matthews, Richard Mehrtens, Chris Holstein and Greg Best have appeared at the hearings.

Merilyn Vale

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