Thursday 30 April 2009

He said, she said

Following pressure from Mayor, the CEO of Cairns Regional Council will now not undertake the investigation about the financial deal done with Radio 4CA.

"In the course of conducting [my] preliminary internal investigation, I've concluded that it is appropriate for some aspects of the investigation to be undertaken by an external investigator," Noel Briggs has admitted.

The external investigation will look into how a commercial arrangement has been brokered by the Council's Manager of Corporate Communications Kerie Hull and 4CA, in relation to the Mayor's appearance on the 4CA show on Friday mornings with John Mackenzie.

However, in a secret luncheon meeting yesterday between 4CA associates, it was revealed there were emails from the Mayor, addressed to Station Manager Steve Hirst, that showed Val Schier was aware of the arrangement.

Former shock-columnist and Cairns Post Chief of Staff, Gavin King, also announced on John Mackenzie's radio show yesterday, about the emails.

"I've seen them and where the Mayor acknowledged there was an arrangement in place to get her back on the radio talk back programme," King said. He did not read out any text from the purported email, nor did he show them to the show's host, John Mackenzie.

Mayor Schier has said she was not aware of any financial arrangement and would never have agreed to it. Val exchanged emails with CairnsBlog when I first alerted her to the suggestion of a financial deal with 4CA on the 10th April.

"It's amazing. 110% crap I can assure you. I can't believe how many angry people there are out there," Val Schier told CairnsBlog on 10th April.

"I was not made aware of this arrangement at any stage and would never have supported it. I can categorically say to you, and swear on my heart, that I knew nothing at all about this," a very disturbed and angry Mayor said on Thursday week.

"Upon receipt of the external investigator's report, Council will take all appropriate steps to follow through on the findings of the investigation," Briggs now says.

Whatever occurred, senior staff did not openly and honestly inform the Mayor of all the facts. They may well have communicated that a 'deal' had been struck, but the financial arrangement was hushed up. It was then, that Councillors Blake and Bonneau exploiting the opportunity to embarrass Val Schier, and undermine her and the role of Mayor.

It's blatantly obvious that the professional relationship between the Mayor, and her CEO and senior staff appears in tattles following undermining by the conservative Councillors Blake and Bonneau.

The breakdown appears beyond repair, and was evident by the way in which the CEO involved himself in Councillor Diane Forsyth's code of conduct inquiry. CairnsBlog will release tomorrow, a series of documents that were altered, with the full knowledge and instruction of Noel Briggs, in the hours before the Council meeting to decide on Cr Forsyth's fate two weeks ago.



nocturnal congreee said...

"".....However, in a secret luncheon meeting yesterday between 4CA associates, it was revealed there were emails from the Mayor, addressed to Station Manager Steve Hirst, that showed Val Schier was aware of the arrangement...."
This gets worse and worse. "A SECRET luncheon meeting....."???

And why hasn't Noel Briggs investigated whether Kev Byrne had a little "Cash for Comments" deal with McKenzie?

Cairns Resident said...

Curiouser and curiouser......

Noj Nedlaw said...

I note that it's only SOME aspects of the investigation that Mr Briggs is not undertaking.

Lets hope that he hasn't commissionned the firm called Far North Investigations, headed by our friend Tony Walsh.

Syd Walker said...

It's beyond me what's so complicated about this.

If the CEO can't submit a brief, accurate report to the Mayor on who did what and when, why is he on a six figure salary? Beat's me.

Bryan Law said...

Beats me too Syd! I'll spare you my thoughts on Mr Briggs' competence, and speculate instead about his attitude.

Democratic representation seems to be something that Mr Briggs allows to inhabit his Council building only under the strictest conditions.

Elected Councillors shall have the right to rubber-stamp appropriate items only, and only then if they obey the social niceties of the mid-20th Century.

The Mayor may serve as a figurehead for rubber-stamping purposes, always provided that she is adequately costumed and briefed.

Apart from that the CEO determines policy and runs Council. Controls the budget and the legal advice. Organises staff delegation.

And has half a dozen Councillors who are happy that way - 'cos it saves them time in their otherwise busy schedules of gossip, intrigue, and the relentless pursuit of narrow self-interest.

I reckon that if we're going to keep Noel Briggs as CEO, we ought go all the way and have Sno Bonneau as Mayor.

Joe,Gordonvale said...

Desley Boyle should now step into this council charade,and take positive action against,Briggs,
Blake,Gregory,Cochrane and Bonneau.
These people are intent on disrupting the efforts of our council and undermining Val's
authority.They should be sent packing.

Constance Lloyd said...

Mike’s blog post about Dennis Quick triggered a memory flash.

In one of his postings Dennis rated the performance of each of the CRC councillors – disguised behind elegant and witty (sorry Joe, Gordonvale), nom-de-plumes.

It’s a pretty mixed bag, but I just love the fact the he rates Cr Pyne as above average achievement with Crs Blake, Cochrane and Bonneau as “Below average”

This was his assessment.

High achievement
Paul Gregory

Above average achievement
Robert Pyne
Linda Cooper

Average achievement
Nancy Lanskey
Di Forsyth

Below average
Allan Blake
Margaret Cochrane
Sno Bonneau

Low achievement
Kirsten Lesina

Very Low achievement
Julia Leu
Val Schier

Perhaps Dennis, if you follow this blog, you make care to provide an update?

Cairns Resident said...

How can you prove from an email address just who sent it? There isn't any handwriting or fingerprints to check. Christ almighty, let's hope that "Tony Walsh" isn't called in to do the "investigation".

hieronymus bosch said...

Thanks for that Bryan, that's my thoughts exactly...

...and Joe, Desley is mates with Briggs from what I understand, so... However, it would be interesting to see Desley 'do' anything, on any issue, frankly!

Blogster said...

I met Val a few weeks ago for the first time, this was after about the second time she was back on the show, and mentioned that I had heard her on air. I asked her how that had come about. She seemed surprised (but at the same time pleased) that Macca was now suddenly interested in having her on air again, as before he wasn't (for whatever reason). She sounded almost naive when she told me that 'all of a sudden' he wanted her back on the show. I could not sense or derive from our conversation about this that this was at all arranged. And although it could have all been faked, it certainly didn't come across that way. Either she is a great actress, or she is just very naive...time will tell.

Coincidentally, I raised the issue of the Communications Department. As an outsider, who just follows the news in the regular media, I felt that the Department was not representing the Council very well and told her that. Val basically did not want to go into this, and now I fully understand why. But instead of bagging the people who work in this department, she just shut up and diverted the conversation.

My impression of her, before I met her, was that she was indeed a 'rubber stamper', but now that I have spoken with her (we talked about more issues than the above), I have changed my opinion on her.

I am pleased to see that an external body will conduct the enquiry, although I am always sceptical.

And I hope that 'who did what' will be cleared up soon so we can move on and try to get Cairns back on track. You know, work on real issues.

S. Northy said...

Where the hell is the paper copy of this contract? Or doesn't the Cairns Regional Council do business with 4CA on a paper contract??

Matt Heirink said...

If something like this happened where I work, we would be able to pull up quotes, signed contracts and invoices in a matter of minutes. It's basic quality control procedures that all reputable businesses have these days. Why does Council have to hold an external inquiry to dig these documents up?

Noj Nedlaw said...

4CA seems convinced that a contract exists. As bloggers have said, two people need to sign a contract and both parties usually get a copy of the signed contract. I reckon it’s strange why 4CA has not rushed forward with their copy. I know that if I were innocent, that’s what I would do.

So let’s also keep the pressure on 4CA to come clean as well.

S. Northy said...

Matt Heirink, you are correct. Where is the paper-work? Where is the signed contract made with Radio 4CA? Why hasn't Noel Briggs, CEO of Cairns Regional Council, whose big fat salary we ratepayers
pay, provided it? Why, just why does Noel Briggs have to organise an internal "inquiry" with "some parts being outsourced" to find WHO SIGNED THE CONTRACT.

nocturnal congress said...

Yep, Radio 4CA have said there was a "commercial agreement" so WHERE THE HELL IS IT? Where is the hard paper copy of the legal agreement between the CRC and 4CA authorising payment of the sum of $250 per week for the Mayor to appear on John McKenzie's radio program? Whose signatures are on the agreement/contract?
Why are we going through all this psychotic bullshit seeing people ducking and weaving, running for cover, running off to lawyers, secret meetings, wanting "investigations" and "outsourcing externally"?
Where is that agreement?

Noj Nedlaw said...

Could not resist this comment......

If either Cairns Regional Council or 4CA archived the Contract with Grace Records it would be found instantly!

Sue E said...

Classified: Secret

CCC/CRC WE’LL DO IT OUR WAY Policy No. 0:0:0.

Special Version ii(b) : An Explanation in plain English

1. What the community doesn’t know won’t hurt them. Ignore or bury community concerns and issues. If you wear folks down with inaction they’ll eventually give up. If that doesn’t work, think radio. Nothing like a little ridicule to deflect the issues and the poor devils don’t have a clue they’re actually paying for it.

2. Developers ALWAYS come first. What are a few planning scheme dispensations, zone changes and negotiated decisions amongst friends and here and there? Our planning scheme is totally fluid for a reason. How else are we going to realise our vision? Ignore breaches of legislation and development approval conditions. There’s too many to worry about. Who knows the law anyway? Remember there’s no such thing as illegal building work. Approval after the fact and hey presto it’s legal.

3. Avoid community backlash by claiming Council will get sued if they don’t give contentious developments the green light. The implied threat of increased rates to cover possible legal action always works. Forget the “coty principle.” Everyone thinks it’s a law about Cottes cordials anyway. It is, isn’t it?

4. Engage with the community after a decision has been made, but don’t let on. Encourage the community to believe their input is important and valued. Do you think we’d get anything done if they were part of the process?

5. Image is everything. Avoid cameras when attending functions with ‘you know who.’ Avoid the media like ‘swine flu.’ If cornered, feign surprise and use the standard defence, “I’m unaware………………………………….

Adopted: classified
Due for review: When all hell breaks loose.


All in jest but not as fanciful as you might think. Why limit an investigation to just the “cash for comments” fiasco? This is behaviour that was part and parcel of the culture that pervaded the former council and appears to be flourishing in sections of this present council. CMC sounds better than ABC.

Alley Cat - Paramatta Park said...

Several comments have asked for the hard copy of the CASH FOR COMMENT agreement/contract.

I agree.

WHERE THE HELL IS IT? Surely this is what TRANSPARENCY is all about?

Alison Alloway said...

4CA Manager, Steve Hirst - said "the council had entered into an AGREEMENT with the station..."
Mr Briggs said he was "AWARE OF AN ARRANGEMENT, but said he believed it was for advertising and did not know the specifics...."
Former Mayor, Kev Byrne said he was "flabbergasted" the council would pay to comment on air.
"WE NEVER PAID," Mr Byrne said.

John McKenzie says "his management approached him over a "guarantee".
He said an agreement to allow former Mayor Kevin Byrne to speak for an hour each week "would never have happened" if there had not been a COMMERCIAL relationship with the Council."

Thus, there is some written contract/commercial agreement somewhere. Both 4CA and the CRC must have a copy each.

Someone knows exactly what is in it and who signed it.

There would also have to be a written contract/commercial agreement for the 10 years former Mayor Kev Byrne appeared on the McKenzie Show. As McKenzie said, "We are not charity."

So, where are the hard copies of these signed legal agreements?

Jeanie Johnston said...

The last 4 years of the Douglas Shire was pretty weird and dysfunctional BUT this stuff beats it all! Who the hell is running this show? The CRC I mean!

Up here in "Cairns North" (AKA Douglas Shire) people have been begging to get away from CRC...maybe it's time for everyone to ask for de-amalgamation from this farce!

Quickie said...

Ring ring ...

"Hello John, Val here"

"Hello Val, congratulations on your narrow win, bought about by your Greenie friends in Port Douglas. Now I presume you will be available to fill the 1 hour slot that Kevin had on my show on Wednesday mornings?"

"What!!! You must be joking. After all the negative crap you served on me during the campaign?. Rack off, besides, I've got an arrangement with another station."

Six months and many election promise back-flips later ...

"Noel, that horrible John MacKenzie is saying horrible things about me and I need to go on his program to explain that my back-flips were really necessary for everyones good. Can you arrange please?"

"No worries Mayor Val, I'll get Kerrie to call him."

Ring ring ... "hello, John MacKenzie here."

"Hello John, Kerrie Hull, CRC Corporate Communications Manager here. The Mayor would like to come on air and respond to the negative publicity being generated on your show".

"You must be joking, after her turning me down some months ago." MacKenzie fumes. "Besides we are not a charity, this is a commercial radio program".

"mmm, commercial, mmm, OK, how much?" asks Kerrie.

"$250 per hour", replies JMcK.

"mmm, OK, I've got a budget that can handle that and if you invoice Council, say fortnightly just for the time the Mayor spends on your station that will be fine."

Ring ring ...

"Hello Val"
"Hello John, good to talk to you".

"First caller is Mike, you're on with the Mayor, Mike".

"Hello Val, just yesterday I borrowed a book from the library and some pages were creased" ...

Later that day ... ring ring ...

"Hello John, Sno here. I thought you said there was no way you would have her on your show."

"It's commercial arrangement Sno, a commercial arrangement, ask her."
"mmm, OK I think I will, bye John.

So you see, this is nothing more than a clash of personalities and misunderstandings and being beaten up into a conspiracy theory that never was.

It's tme to let all the players and the staff to get on with their real jobs ...

Media Watch Watcher said...

Re Quickie's comments....

Nice try Dennis. The bottom line is that the "commercial arrangement was made in the past and now" (you know mate rates, jobs for boys, you scratch my back, I scratch yours, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more.... and someone has to pay to keep Macca in rugs), and these secret dealings and cash payments were not disclosed, full stop! Macca and Noel's biggest problem is that no one thought to mention their secret deals/cash payments proposal to the current Mayor.

That in itself is very disturbing.....It highlights the dysfunctionality of Council staff espeically the CEO.

Blogster said...

Quickie, what you are saying is what I thought could have happened too. It would be a very normal thing in business (especially in that position) for someone to solve the problem presented. And it is quite possible that Kerri thought it was no big deal, $250 an hour radio time could be considered cheap, depending on how you look at it.

However, I can imagine that if I had been in Kerries shoes, I would have gone to Noel (if he's indeed the one who instructed her), "hey, Noel, John will allow Val on air, but only if we pay $250 an hour, what do you reckon?".

It's all conjecture, but we should soon know whether the mayor knew or not, if there's indeed written evidence.

And this affair could easily have happened due to an error in judgment, breakdown in communication, or, more sinister, because some people had an interest to not let her know about this.

As stated above, my impression was and still is that Val didn't know.

I say, everyone's in this matter innocent until proven guilty.

nocturnal congress said...

Val Schier campaigned on the issue of TRANSPARENCY IN LOCAL GOVERNMENT during the last Council Elections. This "Cash for Comment" is in fact a real test of Val's struggle for transparency.

Constance Lloyd said...

Interesting comments about local government bodies on the Sunrise show. Look at this clip, from 6.25 onwards

Big Guns 01 May 09

nocturnal congress said...

"""Why limit an investigation to just the “cash for comments” fiasco? This is behaviour that was part and parcel of the culture that pervaded the former council and appears to be flourishing in sections of this present council."""
Thank you Sue E. It looks like there will be some lucrative, rate-payer paid vacancies for "investigators" in Cairns in the next three years. Funny thing though, being a great mate with a CRC Councillor or even the CEO won't exclude you from the contracts. That doesn't constitute 'conflict of interest" it seems.

Jude Johnston said...

"Conflict of Interest" HA HA HA. Isn't that where a Councillor excuses themselves from a Meeting for 1 minute while the rest of the Councillors vote on whether to approve a Development where that Councillor has an interest.
I would like to know if CRC have a policy on Senior Staff accepting hospitality from Developers and their Agents that could be seen as a "conflict of interest".