There has been a lot of action at Blayney since 10 May when depa wrote to the General Manager demanding an apology from both the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor. From the Mayor, because he allowed bad behaviour at a Council meeting, and from the Deputy Mayor because he behaved badly - breaches of the Code of Conduct and the Council’s own Code of Meeting Practice aplenty.

Unhappy about the lack of application and progress by the General Manager, and a failure to return our phone call or we would make a complaint to the Division of Local Government, we made a complaint - asking the Division to deal in particular with the misrepresentation recorded within the minutes of the June meeting of the Council. As an aside, it turns out that the General Manager failed to comply with our deadline because he was in a meeting with the Mayor tendering his resignation! Apology accepted.

Despite an agreement by the three directors that none of them would be prepared to act as Acting GM, one did but he continued to exhibit the reluctance exhibited by the exiting GM to take the councillors on and to process the Code of Conduct complaint made by depa.

All this became too much and we filed a dispute which was listed before Commissioner Ritchie in the Commission on 6 July. By this stage the bans had been in place for six weeks and no one much at the Council seemed too interested in having them lifted. The bans were on any services at all to Councillor Radburn the Deputy Mayor but also to any meeting at which Councillor Radburn may be present and involved in discussions. This included a refusal to supply anything from the Environmental Services Division for the July business paper.

We went into the compulsory conference with Commissioner Ritchie with a prepared statement that had been negotiated with the Acting GM over the phone the day before. He was happy with its content, we were going to ask the Commission to issue it as a formal Statement and Recommendation and the only proviso was that the Shires Association would review it for any fine tuning. Having spoken to the Shires Association, we thought we had it under control.

But five minutes before the compulsory conference we were handed a copy of what we had understood to be the agreed statement, with amendments to 70% of the document - all primarily aimed at removing any acknowledgement of wrongdoing or guilt by either the exiting General Manager or any of the Councillors. Nice.

We have made a brief submission (only two pages) and you can see a copy here.

When the incoming Minister for Local Government Don Page announced to a packed Shires Association Conference that the first step to "shape the future of local government in New South Wales" was to invite all the mayors and general managers to Dubbo, what better possible response could there be than the famous quote from the hotelier Basil Fawlty.  (The Hotel Inspectors episode, for the enthusiasts.)

Because if you really want to do something that is an exciting initiative, something that really will shape the future of local government over the next 25 years, the last people you would want to invite would be the people with the most to lose. Particularly if you are not going to invite anyone else.

Far too many councils are trading insolvent, can't afford to reflect the demands of the market to pay to attract and retain good staff, can't afford to train staff etc etc.  Clearly someone needs to put a rocket up the amalgamation process and the last people to ask would be the people who have the big jobs and the most to lose – mayors and GMs.

How about 50 councils across the State? What was wrong with the recommendation of the Sproats’ enquiry what, 15 years ago? Who wants to change something that puts them out of a job?

50 councils, suddenly 100 fewer general managers and 1000 fewer councillors. What’s not to like?

As the news was absorbed by the industry (to the sound of mayors and general managers preening) the USU launched an attack on the one-dimensional nature of the invitation list and our own discussions with the Government revealed that they really did intend the invitations to go broader rather than restrict the Dubbo talkfest to asking the cat.

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On 15 July, Canterbury GM Jim Montague presented the depa Cup to the triumphant team of three Canterbury and one ex-Canterbury members and provided a sumptuous lunch with an invitation to all depa members to attend.  We have 27 members at depa, so thanks, Jim.

It’s been a long time coming.  Originally planned to be presented by the Mayor and local Lambourgini test driver Councillor Robert Furolo, this became too hard to manage when the mayor was also elected as the local member at the NSW election.

But Jim was happy to step in. One of the old breed of general managers (and we do mean that in the nicest way) Jim has always understood the importance of protecting staff against councillors behaving badly and the sort of fiasco at Wagga Wagga last year, and Blayney this year, would never happen under his watch. Nice to see a general manager prepared to remind councillors of their proper role. There are plenty who aren't game.

Jim complemented depa and acknowledged our tradition (okay, so eight years isn't much of a tradition yet) of a sporting competition that allows all members to participate as part of the rich cultural life of local government.

Roll on Union Picnic Day Golf Day 2012.

How many times do some people need to be told? Already this morning in the office we have had two e-mails from different councils about ambitious HR/financial whizzes who think they can change the way they are calculating leaseback payments to recoup FBT increases and get around the 10% maximum fee increase provided in clause 15 of the Local Government (State) Award.

They can't.

Let's repeat that for those HR/financial whizzes who are a little bit thick or unimaginative. No, you can't.

Here is item 11 from Local Government Weekly 22/11 of 10 June. This is the old General Circular sent to all councils by the Local Government and Shires Associations.

Please note that the LGSA agrees with us. We are having continuing discussions with the LGSA about what constitutes a new contract when the increased FBT needs to be charged and we will keep you advised.

You might find this useful to forward to those of whom we might reasonably ask, "what part of no don't you understand"?

"The general manager of Blayney Shire Council, Aaron Jones, has quit suddenly in the middle of a stoush between councillors and the union over staff treatment."

So began an article in today's Sydney Morning Herald by their esteemed local government editor Harvey Grennan. (View complete article here)

We reported on the bans imposed by depa members in May and the dispute has gone from bad to worse.

After the Council meeting where the Deputy Mayor behaved badly, the general manager advised staff that he would be referring the behaviour for investigation by the Council’s external Review Panel. But actually getting the general manager to do that became more complicated than it should have.

Referred to a "Sole Reviewer" from their panel, there has been confusion about whether it was a referral by the general manager of unacceptable behaviour for their investigation, a complaint by the employee the subject of the attack by the Deputy Mayor or a complaint by depa. Apparently there was some concern that the Code of Conduct required a complaint to be "in writing" and a reluctance by the general manager to be the complainant. We think a complaint can be made by the general manager as a result of receiving complaints from staff and we have already raised this with the DLG as part of a review of the Model Code of Conduct - just to accommodate the general managers anxious not to upset councillors.

The referral of the investigation/complaint was sufficient for members to resolve to withdraw the broad part of the ban which involved services to meetings of the Council at which Councillor Radburn may participate.

At the next meeting of the Council on 13 June, rather than adopt the draft minutes prepared by staff, two councillors amended them by inserting words that certain things had occurred at the meeting in this incident which had not occurred. The seconder of the motion was the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Radburn. The motion to adopt the minutes in that form was carried and now the minutes of the meeting record something that did not occur.

History has been rewritten and the general manager announced his resignation on 28 June and left the following day.

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