Harmonious council plan creates council disharmony

Otago regional councillors are at odds over a plan to build a more harmonious relationship with council management.

Councillors voted for the chief executive and the council chairman and deputy chairman to meet once a week to make sure they were all on the same page.

The debate at the end of yesterday’s council meeting was described as publicly embarrassing by one councillor.

It led another to ask for councillors to write up-to-date job descriptions for the chairman and deputy chairman.

The council voted 7-4, with one abstention, in favour of a regular Monday meeting to review council operations, policy-making and operational procedures as required.

Michael Laws
Michael Laws
Deputy chairman Cr Michael Laws said his proposal for the meetings stemmed from discussions at two earlier councillor-only meetings, and a general view around the council table.

His motion was not designed as a threat or a criticism of anybody, Cr Laws said.

His aim was simply to improve communication between the elected leaders of the council and its executive ‘‘to ensure that we’re all on the same page’’, he said.

‘‘It’s designed to ensure there is a more harmonious working relationship between governance and the executive and for that process to be facilitated through the goodwill of all parties.’’

Cr Bryan Scott initially supported the motion.

However, he called for the discussion to be moved into public excluded and as that idea was rejected, he revealed he wanted to review the job descriptions of the chairman and deputy chairman as well.

‘‘Because I have concerns around the role of deputy chair, I previously indicated I would second this motion, and the reason I did so was in an endeavour to make this role more constructive, proactive, working positively with staff, and a regional focus.

‘‘However, I now realise it is more important to get a better structure and expectation around this role.

‘‘It needs in my view, an up-to-date job description, I also suggest we take the same opportunity for the chair.

‘‘Both roles need to be constructive and aligned with ORC [council] aims and values,’’ Cr Scott said.

Cr Gretchen Robertson questioned the need for a formal ruling on the meeting.

‘‘To me it is publicly embarrassing that we need to specify that our chair and deputy need to meet with our chief executive at a certain time every week.

‘‘It’s kind of like reporting to the principal once a week.

‘‘It’s unnecessary, surely.

‘‘We can get on, we can talk, we can meet, we don’t need a formal motion for that.’’

Cr Hilary Calvert questioned who Cr Robertson thought was the headmaster in her analogy.

‘‘I think that we’ve had some awkwardnesses as a result of people having expectations that weren’t fully being met, but that weren’t reasonably articulated in the first place,’’ Cr Calvert said.

Chief executive Sarah Gardner said she met with Cr Calvert more often than any other councillor but she was open to meetings with other councillors.

She said she probably had one meeting a month with chairman Andrew Noone at present.

‘‘If you feel there’s a communication problem then I’m happy to have more regular meetings,’’ she said.

Crs Laws, Calvert, Michael Deaker, Carmen Hope, Gary Kelliher, Kevin Malcolm, and Mr Noone voted in favour of the meetings.

Crs Scott, Robertson, Alexa Forbes, and Marian Hobbs voted against it.

Cr Kate Wilson abstained.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

Comments

What a total lack of professionalism. These people couldn’t lead a dog never mind a region!

The sooner Sarah and the Councillors work out that no matter what the council tries to do to improve engagement and relationships, nothing will ever improve while Gavin Palmer is a director. It is time to pay him out.

Ugh! Get rid of the regional councils. it's just another layer of unneccesary politicking and posturing. It's important to note that the actual _work_ of the council is done by salaried staff. these guys can be gotten rid of and the whole thing adsorbed into a government dept.

 

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