Confidential information on the recruitment of Huon Valley Council’s next General Manager has leaked, Tasmanian Times can reveal.

We were contacted this week with information from confidential and credible sources, including the names of the candidates being interviewed this week. Information as to their current employ was also leaked. We understand the applicant interviews underway this week involve a short list of six candidates.

Should this information be accurate and timely, this is a most serious breach of confidentiality and possibly even a matter for Tasmanian Police.

Three possible sources of the leak are executive recruitment agency Red Giant based in Hobart, a member(s) of the four person GM panel of councillors, or a staff member from the Huon Valley Council. It is unknown whether the remaining five councillors are as yet privy to any information about the short list of candidates.

Red Giant Pty Ltd and the Director of Local Government were contacted for comment.

“Red Giant takes candidate confidentiality extremely seriously and would not disclose any confidential candidate information without authorisation.  I have reviewed steps undertaken by Red Giant in the recruitment process of the General Manager for Huon Valley Council and all Red Giant processes and policies have been adhered to.”Joanne Inches GAICD, Managing Director

“I take the matters very seriously and have recently written to all Councillors to reinforce the importance of compliance with the Local Government Act, which requires the maintenance of appropriate confidentiality. In the ordinary course of any investigations, should one be undertaken, inquiries are made confidentially and therefore it would be inappropriate for me to comment any further.” – Craig Limkin, Director Local Government

Tasmanian Times did not pursue Mayor Enders for comment, as she is refusing to do her duty as spokesperson for the council and communicate with the media. (More below).

The leak came despite the council’s increasing penchant for secrecy.

The Huon Valley Residents and Ratepayers Association made a statement 5 July 2021 which in part said:
“We understand that there were 49 applicants for the position of GM which is a good sign. When questioned the mayor refused to give any figure despite this being normal practice for many recruitment agencies. HVRRA can see no reason for such basic information being withheld from the public.”

When a public question was asked at the 23 June 2021 Ordinary Meeting of Council, about the number of candidates who have applied for this position, Mayor Enders response was:

“The council has appointed Red Giant to assist the General Manager Recruitment Panel to find the best candidate to fill the role of General Manager of the Huon Valley Council.

“The panel is working diligently with Red Giant following the agreed recruitment process and the panel is consulting the full council at the appropriate times through this process. The are no plans to undertake any community consultation during this process.

“It is unusual for any employer, public or private, to disclose details of process, including candidate numbers, and it is not my intention to do so.

I cannot see how this would provide any community benefit.

“At the conclusion of the process and once a General Manager has been appointed a media statement will be made to inform the community of the outcome.”

The preamble to the public question included:

“My question concerns agenda item No. 15.016/21 ‘General Manager Recruitment Panel’.

“Following community concerns about council’s failure in 2009 and 2013 to volunteer, without public pressure, how many applicants there had been for the position of General Manager, on each occasion, as I recall, council reluctantly revealed those numbers: there were 44 applicants in 2009, and 29 in 2013.

“Obviously, the idea of winning the top local-government job in our lovely municipality is very attractive.

“Although applications for the position of General Manager closed on May 17 last, council again has failed to reveal to the public the number of applicants for the vacant GM position.

“There is great public interest in the filling of this top staff position at council, and many ratepayers and residents interested in local-government matters are eager to be kept informed of the recruitment process’s progress.

“There cannot possibly (SIC) be any possible breach of security in council revealing the applicant numbers. It’s not as if we are asking for names and addresses.”

When the minutes of the meeting were published, council elected to remove the preamble and only included the final paragraph in the recorded minutes which will be a part of the archives of the Huon Valley Council in years to come. The full extent of the question may disappear into obscurity.

The final paragraph of the question was:

“How many applications for the position of GM were received by the closing date, May 17; what progress to date has been made by the General Manager Recruitment Panel in assessing the applications and short-listing candidates; and why is it that council once again has to be asked for these numbers rather than council simply making them available without waiting to be asked?”

General Manager recruitment Panel consisting of Mayor Enders, Deputy Mayor Doyle, Cr Newell and Cr Campbell

Transparency, a lack of community consultation and good governance, along with the absence of openness were identified as being major concerns raised in the previous Board of Inquiry which resulted in the sacking of all nine councillors and the appointment of an administrator.

Within the Huon Valley there have been calls for another Board of Inquiry given the alleged poor performance of the newly elected councillors; along with the realisation that perhaps the core of the problem is not only with the councillors, but also an endemic culture and a deep-rooted rot within the management team of the Huon Valley Council.

Back in September 2015 the Minister for Planning and Local Government established a Board of Inquiry into the Huon Valley Council pursuant to the Local Government Act 1993. The Board of Inquiry undertook a process of investigation and on 15 June 2016 a report which included 55 recommendations to the Minister for Planning and Local Government was released.

The Minister, pursuant to section 225 considered the Report and chose to make 7 Ministerial Directions. All nine of the Huon Valley Councillors were dismissed on 10 October 2016 and former member of the Legislative Council and former Mayor of Glenorchy Council, Adriana Taylor, was put in place as Administrator for an initial period of 12 months. Taylor’s contract was subsequently extended for a further 12 months which in turn coincided with the October 2018 Tasmanian local government elections.

In March 2021, the General Manager Emilio Reale of the Huon Valley Council suddenly resigned with a number of unconfirmed reasons as to why.

Twelve months earlier in March 2020, Reale’s contract was renewed for five years and his annual salary package was boosted from some $180,000 to $240,000.

Following his departure on Friday 16 April 2021, the Huon Valley Council appointed a recruitment panel to seek and recommend to council the best candidate for the position.

At its 31 March 2021 meeting, council nominated Mayor Enders, Deputy Mayor Doyle and Councillors Wilson and Newell to form the recruitment panel. The panel was to work with an external consultant, Red Giant, on the recruitment process.

Meantime, until a replacement general manager is appointed, River Road Consulting provided council with an Acting General Manager until the position is filled. Andrew Wardlaw has held the statutory role of General Manager since 19 April 2019.

Councillor Wilson was dismissed 15 June 2021 over a technical matter regarding his eligibility to be a sitting councillor therefore council needed to replace him on the GM Panel with another councillor. At a subsequent meeting of councillors, Councillor Campbell was selected to join Enders, Doyle and Newell as the four person recruitment panel.

Tasmanian Times in the past week provided Mayor Enders with a series of questions relating to a number of matters of council which were asked in relation to upcoming media articles.

Acting General Manager Andrew Wardlaw and Mayor Bec Enders

Enders replied:

“I will no longer be providing any comments to the Tasmanian Times.

Cr Bec Enders

This has placed our media magazine in a quandary since the mayor is the only spokesperson for the council, and is the only person permitted to respond to questions from the media. This matter has since been escalated to the Director of Local Government Craig Limkin, and Minister for Local Government Roger Jaensch in order to better understand the statutory requirements of a mayor.

Receiving comments from local government mayors throughout Tasmania has never before been an issue in the long history of Tasmania Times which has been publishing since 2002. Mayors and councils are mostly keen to use the services of the media to make comment.

Given this highly confidential leak, the recent email from Mayor Enders offering no comment, together with the community disappointment over her changed allegiance from being an independent to a Liberal Party candidate at the recent state government election, the mayor’s credibility has left her struggling.

The imbroglio may require a thorough investigation by the Director of Local Government, if not another Board of Inquiry established by the new minister Roger Jaensch.