Monday, 6 October 2008

Another Council communications disaster

Hot on the heels of Councillor Alan Blake's rude email reply to a resident, and yesterday's revelation from Cairns Regional Council employee Meredith Wilsch, who is our 'Community Relations Engagement Co-ordinator'.

Wilsch told me she did not subscribe to my email mailing list and did not give consent to receive unsolicited messages.

Today I can reveal yet more stunning emails coming out of the hallowed halls of Council.

Rob Reilly, Council's Senior Revenue and Collections officer wrote in a 19 September email to a Port Douglas resident asking for an explanation about her 50% rate rise said:

  • "I have supplied answers to your latest email below. It should be noted that the Revenue Statement and Annual Reports are listed on Council's website.

    Please note I have over 76,000 ratepayers that I deal with and I believe that I have given you and your issues sufficient coverage, therefore, I wish to advise that I will not be entering into any further correspondence regarding the issues below.
    You may refer any concerns regarding same direct to your elected member."

That's the way, push your rightful duties onto Councillor Julia Leu to deal with! Isn't that your job Mr Reilly?

However, it got a whole lot worse than this. Just three days prior, Brett Grosser, the general manager for Corporate Services at Council, got wind of emails going back and forth between upset and irate Port Douglas residents and Council's finance department. He sent an email to Cairns Regional Council CEO, Noel Briggs.

Look at the contempt the Cairns Regional Council are showing towards our northern residents. In this email excerpt, this is how rate payers are being talked to, in this internal leaked email:

  • From: Brett Grosser
    Sent: Tuesday, 16 September 2008 4:50 PM
    To: Noel Briggs
    Cc: Rob Reilly
    Subject: RE: Rates

    Noel,

    I think we should simply stop communicating with her and block her email adress [sic] from the system.
    What are your thoughts?
    There is no way of satisfing [sic] her and any further dialogue will simply add more fuel to the fire.

    Regards
    Brett

Minutes after this message was sent to the original complainant, Rob Reilly realised what he had done in sending an internal email outside. He then sent out two 'recall notices' to the original recipient.

Now this was rather silly. You don't have to be an 8-year-old to realise that this is totally in-effective. Recalling emails sent in error is a system for internal LAN or WAN networks, not when you send an email to someone out there in cyber land.

A lobby group, formed in opposition to the Cairns/Douglas amalgamation called Friends of Douglas Shire, that was behind recent public meeting to protest what they call a 'takeover' of thier Shire instead a managed and respectful mutual working relationship.

"There have been a lot of incoming emails inquiring as to the rates situation," said co-ordinator Michael Gabour, who also hosts a morning show on Radio Port Douglas.

Friends of Douglas Shire believe that approximately 200 people have withheld all or part of their rates to Cairns Regional Council, as they have been frustrated with lack of adequate explanation for substantial rate hikes in July.

"We have had feedback that more people will be withholding their rate payment when the next rate bills are received in early 2009," Gabour says. "The Rates Tribunal has seemingly not provided any acceptable explanations to those that attended the Douglas Shire Council offices on the 10th September."

It's now obvious that this type of communication style is symptomatic of our Council management. There is a serious breakdown in the way communication is carried out by Cairns Regional Council with it's ratepayers.

The systemic and dismissive attitude by the Council towards the Douglas residents shows a culture of arrogance and one that is totally out of touch with their responsibilities to serve the people that pay their salary. These highly paid officials are public servants.

How many more examples do we need of an organisation out of control like this?

1 comment:

Eamon said...

The staff members involved, including the CEO, should all be sacked. They need to be reminded that we, the ratepayers, are paying their wages and that we, the ratepayers, deserve to have our concerns addressed in a civil manner.