AN INTERNAL email sent by Tamworth Regional Council (TRC) general manager Paul Bennett to all staff members criticising councillor Mark Rodda, without naming him, has raised questions about fractured relationships in the organisation.
Mr Bennett sent an email to all staff in August with the subject line 'NDL Letter - Better things to do' in response to a letter to the editor published in the Leader written by Cr Rodda.
The letter to the editor criticised the general manager for demanding local government election corflute signs be removed in accordance with the legislation, that Cr Rodda called "acting opportunistically to make this an issue".
In his email, Mr Bennett stated he was always willing to cop criticism on the chin where warranted, but refused to "let untruths lie unchallenged or unopposed and then have people assume they must be true".
"You would think that someone that has almost nine years of association with our organisation would have a better understanding of our performance and the awesome work that all of our staff do to make our region a better place, and that they would actually come up with some solutions to the many challenges we face rather than always just throw the negatives into a public forum that does nothing but damage the organisation that they want to work with and for them as an elected representative," he wrote.
In Cr Rodda's letter to the editor also titled 'Better things to do', he argued the council staff were largely unappreciated due to "toxicity in the workplace" and said many are worried about their futures.
But, in the all-staff email Mr Bennett said those claims are completely false and referenced a recent organisational climate survey conducted by the University of South Australia.
He said the study demonstrated the workforce "is very satisfied" in hard data collated by experts, "not a misconceived perception by someone that really has no clue about our workforce".
Cr Rodda never responded to the email, but told the Leader he felt it was unprofessional for a senior council employee to "besmirch" an elected representative - even if it was unnamed.
"To use council's email system to do so displayed a serious lack of impartiality and fairness," he said.
"My comments in my original letter were never a negative reflection toward the great work the dedicated and passionate rank and file council employees do in their day-to-day work.
"They retain my utmost respect, trust and high regard, as they enjoy my unequivocal support.
"I thought it was both unethical for an executive officer of a council to involve himself in the election campaign of candidates rather than simply referring the matter to the NSW Electoral Commission and maintaining independence and impartiality of his position."
The letter to the editor was in reference to an article published in the Leader titled ''Petty' order to remove signs slammed'.
Candidates were asked to remove dozens of election posters in July, after the COVID-19 pandemic pushed local government elections back once again to December.
The signs were erected on private property with the permission of the landholder, but State Environmental Planning Policy only permits elections signs to be displayed five weeks before election day.
The Leader posed a number of questions to Tamworth Regional Council about the letter sent by Mr Bennett, including whether he and Cr Rodda had addressed the issues raised, how it has affected the relationship between council staff and an elected official and whether the pair would be able to work together effectively in the future.
A council spokeswoman said TRC would not comment on the matter.
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