Mediation was not an option

AS THE community comes to grips with the highly publicised fallout of Armidale Dumaresq Council (ADC), recently ousted general manager Shane Burns has confirmed he was forced to the negotiation table against his will.

Speaking to The Leader just a day after his shock exit, Mr Burns reiterated his preference for seeing his contract out, but said his hands were ultimately tied.

“I would have preferred to see my contract out but it was obvious the only option I had was to enter into the early termination of the contract,” he said.

“I wanted to undertake mediation and then go through negotiation after the code-of-conduct complaints were finalised, but that hasn’t happened.”

Mayor Laurie Bishop, who initiated proceedings to dump Mr Burns last month, said Local Government NSW concluded mediation was unlikely to produce a “useful outcome” and negotiations between the two parties began about two weeks ago, resulting in them arriving at an “amicable separation agreement” on Monday.

Terms of the settlement agreement are confidential, but it is understood ratepayers will foot the bill for Mr Burns’ sizeable payout.

Commenting on his fellow councillor Herman Beyersdorf’s suggestion council should be suspended until a new permanent general manger is appointed, Cr Bishop said the Division of Local Government  (DLC) has a definition of a dysfunctional council and ADC did not fall into that category.

“I’ve been working with the DLC closely over the last several months ... they would like to see councillors sort it out for themselves,” Cr Bishop said.

Still reeling from the news himself, councillor Rob Richardson described the long-standing GM’s forced departure as “distressing”, especially as his contract was due to expire in September.

“It is very unfortunate for him, for the council, for the cost to the community ... the whole situation could have been avoided,” Mr Richardson said.

“His staff is generally finding it very difficult at the moment with what’s been happening.”

Mr Burns contends Cr Bishop moved to sack him after he lodged two code-of-conduct complaints against the mayor on behalf of his staff.

Investigations into the complaints are ongoing. 

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