Cloak and dagger: Shock as Armidale mayor moves to dump GM

Armidale Dumaresq Council  mayor Laurie Bishop has taken the extraordinary step of moving to dump general manager Shane Burns.

During the closed session of Monday night’s council meeting, Cr Bishop tabled a mayoral minute calling for the early termination of Mr 

Burns’ contract if mediation failed to resolve the strained “working arrangements of the Armidale Dumaresq Council executive”.

Using his casting vote, the motion was narrowly carried before a rescission motion was put forward to suspend the original decision.

Mr Burns, who was not made aware of the mayoral minute prior to it being tabled, said he believed the vote was an attempt to gag him in the wake of “serious” code of conduct allegations against the mayor.

“I have lodged a couple of code of conduct complaints against the mayor for unacceptable behaviour and aggression towards staff members,” Mr Burns said. “I believe I could be forgiven for thinking it had a subsequent connection.”

Cr Jim Maher condemned the controversial move by the first-term councillor, saying it was “ludicrous”.

“There was no notice, no process,” the former mayor said. “I believe in natural justice and I can’t support something like that. The general manager, by and large, has done a good job.” 

Cr Maher said he would like to see Mr Burns serve out his contract, which expires on September 3, and start the search for his replacement in the interim.

He said he personally thought the mayor was “unable to hold a professional relationship” with Mr Burns.

“I advised the mayor some time ago when he sought my opinion on this,  that the general manager has had a reasonably successful run and the best direction would be to let him serve out his contract ... one that doesn’t cost our community an arm and a leg,” Cr Maher said.

“The mayor and some of the other councillors are listening to rattlings of the neighbours rather than listening to common sense.”

The long-standing general manager said it was “obvious” there had been a bloc of councillors working together since last year’s election.

“I’m led to believe they want a new leadership team and I’ve been there too long. It could be easy for me to take the cheque and run, but I’m more concerned with ensuring the staff’s concerns are taken forward,” Mr Burns said.

Most councillors who supported the motion refused to comment on the matter, but some said they backed the mayor and the mayoral minute.

Cr Bishop refutes any suggestion there is foundation to claims t he has breached council’s code of conduct.

Council will revisit the matter at an extraordinary council meeting expected to be held next week.

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