Update: Camden Council general manager sacked

Camden’s Liberal councillors have sacked the council’s general manager Greg Wright.

Liberal mayor Lara Symkowiak brought a mayoral minute to last night’s council meeting with no notice calling for a closed meeting to discuss ‘‘a personnel matter’’.

The council staff and people in the public gallery were informed following the closed debate that Mr Wright’s three year contract would be terminated immediately.

Cr Symkowiak told the meeting Mr Wright would receive a pay out and that he was required to leave the council premises by 4pm on Wednesday.

Liberal councillors Debby Dewbery, Theresa Fedeli, Penny Fischer, Peter Sidgreaves and Cr Symkowiak voted to terminate the contract.

Independent councillors David Bligh, Eva Campbell, Greg Copeland and Greg Warren all opposed both the closure of the meeting and the cancellation of the contract.

The four independent councillors put in a recision motion immediately after the meeting which will stop council officers from acting on the mayoral minute until the recision motion is dealt with.

Councillors Eva Campbell and Greg Warren spoke out against the closure of the meeting.

Cr Campbell, who sobbed as the resolution was read out, said she found it ‘‘incredible...that I sit here in absolute ignorance about what it is about and yet be asked to vote to close a meeting.’’

‘‘I think that is appalling, it shows a lack of respect for council colleagues, for the community and for the staff of this council and shows an amazing lack of leadership on your part,’’ she said to Cr Symkowiak.

Cr Warren, a former Camden mayor, said common courtesy dictated that the councillors at least were informed about the nature of the mayoral minute.

Cr Symkowiak refused to give the Advertiser a reason as to why she had moved to sack Mr Wright other than to refer to the resolution which cited clauses in the general manager’s contract.

‘‘It was an internal staffing matter and for this reason it was dealt with in a closed council meeting under the provision of the relevant legislation,’’ she said.

‘‘I won’t be making any more comments.’’

Cr Warren told the Advertiser it was common practise  for mayoral minutes to be placed on display for the public to view and comment on.

‘‘That chamber belongs to the community and when you treat that chamber with disrespect you disrespect the community you represent,’’ Cr Warren said.

‘‘If I was to do something like that I would consider it to be an act of high treachery.’’

A spokesman for the department of local government said the council was not required to disclose reasons for the termination of the contract or the cost it would mean to the council.

‘‘The cost of terminating a general manager’s contract would depend on the grounds on which the contract is terminated,’’ he said. ‘‘The maximum payment permissible under the contract is the equivalent of 38 weeks pay. 

‘‘As with all council decisions, the [Local Government Minister Don Page] would expect councillors to be provided with all information necessary to assist them to make an informed decision. While councils are obliged to disclose decisions made in closed council meetings, they are under no obligation to publicly disclose reasons for a decision to terminate the general manager’s contract.’’

The spokesman said the council had ‘‘broad discretion to terminate the contract on any grounds with the payment of appropriate compensation.’’

He said Mr Wright was not able to utilise unfair dismissal laws, but could take court action if the council had breached its obligations under the contract.