Armidale council GM’s fate to be decided

Council Troubles

ARMIDALE Dumaresq Council will hold an extraordinary meeting tonight to determine the fate of its general manager Shane Burns.

Mayor Laurie Bishop tabled a mayoral minute during closed session at Monday night’s council meeting calling for Mr Burns’ early termination if mediation failed to repair their damaged relationship. The mayoral minute divided councillors five votes all, but was narrowly carried by way of Cr Bishop’s casting vote, before a rescission motion was put forward to suspend the decision.

The surprise push to dump Mr Burns, whose contract expires on September 3, has sent shockwaves through the community and left many commentators scratching their heads.

If the rescission motion is defeated and Mr Burns’ contract is terminated early, the general manager stands to gain a sizeable payout at ratepayers’ expense.

Former mayor Peter Ducat, who has worked alongside Mr Burns for more than seven years, admitted he was taken aback.

“I was probably a little bit surprised along with everyone else. From my point of view the most practical thing to do would be to let the contract run out and in the meantime start the process to recruit a new general manager,” Mr Ducat said.

However, he was quick to add he was not privy to the inner workings of the council and did not know the circumstances surrounding the decision.

Cr Herman Beyersdorf, who voted against the motion, fears the stoush could bring council unwanted scrutiny from the administrators.

“Under the Local Government Act the director general in the first place can recommend the dismissal or sacking of a whole council, and I’m not suggesting that this will happen, but it is definitely a possibility in my mind,” Cr Beyersdorf said.

“There has certainly been a great deal of dysfunction and delays and the latest issue is a very divisive issue ... the current dispute is not helping us much at all.

“If the voting pattern remains the same as last time ... I think that’s probably when the department will give us another look to see if we are capable of managing our own affairs.”

Mr Burns contends Cr Bishop tabled the mayoral minute “hot on the heels” of serious code of conduct complaints against the mayor, which Mr Burns lodged on behalf of council staff.

However, Cr Bishop strongly denies the claims he belittled and bullied staff, as well as Mr Burns’ allegation a connection between the code of conduct complaints and the timing of the mayoral minute exists.

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