Thursday 28 May 2009

CEO to write a report on the report

The controversial and much-anticipated report into the Cash for Comments scandal that has rocked Cairns Regional Council over the last five weeks, has been completed and delivered the Chief Executive Officer this afternoon.

However, Noel Briggs has not given it to any Councillor. Instead he, and only he, will read it, and prepare his own report, on the report.

I'll repeat that again, because it sounds rather odd.

Noel Briggs, the guy we pay around $250,000 a year, will write his own report on Council's commercial arrangement with 4CA . Many have suggested that Noel himself, was part of the problem and is why the external investigation was called for in the first place by the Mayor.

So we, as ratepayers of Cairns, have just paid a high-ranking QC a substantial amount of money to investigate and deliver a totally independent report, only to have another one done by the CEO.

There's something seriously backward about all this:

  • From: Noel Briggs
    Sent: Thursday, 28 May 2009 5:44 PM
    To: ~~Councillors
    Subject: Investigation

    I have received at 4.00pm today the report from The External Investigator.

    The next step is for me to read the report and then prepare a report to Council on the findings.

    I should be in a position to report to Council some time next week.
    I propose to call a special meeting next week. My aim is to have the meeting on Wednesday in closed session at 12.00 noon.

    I have to give 2 clear days notice for a special meeting so for the meeting to be held on Wednesday the notice will need to go out tomorrow.
    I will advise tomorrow.

    Noel Briggs
    Chief Executive Officer, Cairns Regional Council
    T: 4044 3595

What a fiasco. The CEO is treating the Councillors like a bunch of brain-dead monkeys.

The Mayor should call immediately for full and open disclosure. Val Schier should also demand Noel Briggs remove himself from any further involvement in this matter forthwith.

However, a number of Councillors have not accepted the CEO's plan to censor the original report. Division 4 Councillor Kirsten Lesina, wants all Councillors to receive a copy immediately.

"Every Councillor should be entitled to see the full report ASAP, rather than just an abridged version," Cr Lesina told Noel Briggs, in a written response this evening.

"I request that the full report be available to all Councillors tomorrow [Friday]."

Councillor Linda Cooper also has called for a full public disclosure. "When the report comes before Council, I will be the first to ask for this to be released to the public," Cr Cooper told CairnsBlog this evening.

Kirsten Lesina, who graduated with a Bachelor of Laws from James Cook University, also wants the report, given it's public interest, to be dealt with in open Council session.

"I believe that as the public has paid for the report, they have every right to know the contents and thus the report should be dealt with in open session, rather than closed session," Councillor Lesina said.

ABC Far North's Richard Dinnen interviewed Noel Briggs late yesterday. This from ABC's blog:

  • But Mr Briggs was unsure of when the report will be presented to council and exactly how much of the report will be available to the public.

    He was unable to explain what the possible outcomes of the report will be.This is the first time Mr Briggs has commented to the ABC Far North since the investigation began last month.

    Click here the audio of Briggs speaking with Richard Dinnen.

Following the interview, Dinnen played Paul Kelly's Don't stand so close to the Window. It was an inspired song choice following the defiant Briggs:-

  • Oh Marlene, how we fell
    What we've done now we can never tell
    Bottle of wine, then another
    Suddenly we fell into each other

    Don't stand so close to the window
    Somebody out there might see

    Then the word on the wire
    Would be just like Ash Wednesday bush fire
    Kiss me quick, kiss me warm
    Put your dress on and hurry back home

    Don't stand so close to the window
    Somebody out there might see
    And you're not supposed to be here with me

    There's a way, there's a track
    One false move and there's no turning back
    Turn the page, close the book
    Walk out the door now with never a look

    And don't stand so close to the window
    Somebody out there might see
    And you're not supposed to be here with me
    The walls have ears and the darkness eyes don't you see?


Syd Walker said...

Could it be that the unmentionable truth, that must be kept from the public at all costs, is that the report contains less relevant information and analysis than the extended coverage of this issue by CairnsBlog?

BTW, any news from the Council PR team - or are they bunkered down reading nursery rhymes?

Quickie said...

Mike ...

Have you considered that this independent report might actually reveal that Mayor Val has been less than honest when she said "I know nothing"?

You see, she did not call for the independent report, Briggs did, when he could see where it was going.

It is only this blog that says she did.

He has put himself at arm’s length over this matter and because it was he that commissioned the report, it is proper that he table it to a closed meeting on Tuesday.

Then the fun starts ...

Oh and by the way, how do you know it wasn't simply Mackenzie himself that informed some Councillors about the arrangement.
That the only way the station manager could force him to have Val on "his" show was as a time paid advertisement.

As I always said, this whole saga has been a monumental beat up by you ... nothing more.

I feel very sorry for Tom Hull's niece, she must hate you.

NOT HAPPY said...

The Mayor requested the external report, which should surely be delivered to her first. The Mayor was elected democratically on a platform of bringing transparency into Council. We, the electors voted for that!
This issue, "Cash for Comment" is about such TRANSPARENCY.
The public have a right to know the full contents of this report, not some watered down, censored edition given to the Mayor, Councillors and the public according to what the CEO decides.

How the hell can we have open, accountable Government when ONE PERSON decides what is released and what isn't???

Just what the hell is going on in that Council? How did ONE person get this amount of power? Moreover, why should he be allowed to have that power? We did NOT elect the CEO.

nocturnal congress said...

""That the only way the station manager could force him to have Val on "his" show was as a time paid advertisement."""

What are you saying here Quickie?

That it all was entirely the fault of John McKenzie?

nocturnal congress said...

The battle for transparency in Cairns Regional Council.......

On one side, the democratically elected Mayor, elected on a platform of bringing openness, honesty and transparency back into local Government....

On the other...the non-elected CEO and executive, not answerable to the ballot box and the people of Cairns and surrounds

The issue..."Cash for Comment"
an issue fundamentally about transparency which was generated by the less than transparent actions of an executive officer.

The Mayor demands an external inquiry conducted by an impartial legal expert, in the interests of transparency and openness.

HOWEVER...The CEO says he will vet the report and provide his own report to the Mayor and Councillors at a closed meeting at a time of his choosing.....

The battle for transparency is in dire straits of being lost...forever.

Roger David said...

I feel sorry for Tom Hull

Unknown said...

another cover-up by this tinpot functionary. the report must be made public immediately. briggs must not be allowed to bring the council into even more disrepute than he has already by hiding the truth.

Deep Throat said...

If I were Blakey, I'd be pushing for Briggs to get the full report out in the open so I can clear my name (and Kerie's)

Hull Hath No Fury said...

If you have nothing better to do with your time take a look at how many comments in The Cairns Blog this one issue has provoked. It clearly demonstrates how offended people are by the actions of 2 Councillors and 2 Executives of CMC. They need to come clean or be cleaned out.

S. Northy said...

Hull Hath No Fury....most people are very craven when it comes to making a public comment or stand. That should never be misinterpreted as lack of interest in an issue, lack of discussion or lack of opinion.

Noj Nedlaw said...

I, like many others on this blog, have found various decisions of the Cairns Regional Council CEO to be somewhat worrisome. So I thought I would undertake a little research into the powers that the incumbent, Noel Briggs has under the voluminous Local Government Act 1993.

Section 1131

1131 Role of chief executive officer
(1) The chief executive officer of a local government has the role of implementing the local government’s policies and decisions.

(2) On a day-to-day basis, the chief executive officer’s role includes managing the local government’s affairs.

(3) The chief executive officer alone is responsible for—

a. organising the presentation of reports and reporting to the local government; and
b. conducting correspondence between the local government and other persons; and
c. managing and overseeing the administration of the local government and its corporate plan; and
d. coordinating the activities of all employees of the local government.

(The emphasis for “alone” is mine)

So it could be argued that no report can be presented to the Councillors unless it is “reported” by the CEO.

I would have thought that the way around this would be:-

“Dear Councillors,

I have received the report into the Cash For Comment investigation, and I hereby attach it for your reference and action.

But I can also concede that the “organising the presentation” can also be interpreted in other ways as well. Such as has been described on this blog previously with regards to the actions of Di Forsyth.

The Local Government Act 1993 is an omnibus piece of legislation that covers the operations of local government authorities from the tip of Cape York right down to Brisbane.

We have a diversity of situations, of business acumen, frankly of commitment across Queensland’s elected Councillors. It’s obvious that the Act was written to keep the power in the hands of the bureaucrats, not the elected arm.

I am not being an apologist for CEO Briggs, but I suspect he is just interpreting in his own little his way a piece of legislation already in his favour.

In this case the old adage, "the law is an ass", holds true.

St. Lil said...

Thanks Noj, for doing all that sorting & sifting through the Local Govt Act (that stuff is about as interesting to me personally, as watching paper bags grow, so a REAL thank-you).
So, indeed, as I've heard over time, the CEO has powers above & beyond our elected Councillors - yeah, the ones we pay, but we we pay the CEO too.
However, something is very wrong with this structure, as is bleedingly obvious in this case, & obviously there should be some checks & balances built in to the LG Act as a counterweight to the CEO. Desley, Steve .... wake up, did you hear what I said? Ohh, temporarily deaf again, what a shame.....
Additionally, as the CEO himself (Briggs) might be implicated in the cash for comments saga (ie. Briggs may have known what Hull was doing), it would be highly improper if the full report were not tabled in fully, & available to the public.
All power to Councillors Pyne, Lesina & Cooper who have demanded transparency. Val- kick butt on this one - pleeeaasssee?

Syd Walker said...

Imagine a situation in which the head of the public service - in Bribane, or in Canberra - was personally involved in a major controvery also involving the Premier/PM, other leading politcians and other senior bureaucrats.

Does anyone seriously imagine he/she (and he/she alone) would be able to control the release of an official inquiry in the way that Cairns Regional Council's CEO appears to be attempting in this case?

It is clearly a travesty of justice. It may have some basis in the Local Gov Act - such is the silliness of many of our laws. But it's offends any normal person's sense of natural justice that one of the protagonists in a controversy controls access to the results of ensuring inquiries.

I have little doubt the Local Government Act provides for State Government intervention. This case is surely very close to that threashold.

An elected Mayor has been lumbered with a hostile majority on Council and some hostile staff members in key positions. She has clearly tried to play the conciliator role throughout. But it takes two to tango.

If the CEO thinks he has a mandate to bring in Stalinist rule, he should be disabused by Anna Bligh, without too much more delay.

More generally, i believe there's a real problem with this system of local government - in which there are separate elections for Mayors and ordinary Councillor positions. Much better, I think, that the public elects Councillors who then elect a Mayor.

I understand this system, based on an American model, was brought in by Nu Labour in Britain and copied here in Oz.

I know of no evidence that it works well - and I'm aware of cases where it has caused problems, from London to Cairns.

It can work out OK, of course, if all the key players behave with mutual respect and decency. But that's asking a lot in politics.

John, Kuranda said...

Syd may be interested, I know I was, to also see in the Local Government Act, Section 955 that deals with the Kuranda rail line and the Kuranda Tourist Infrastructure Levy.

This seems to be very strange; placing a tourist tax in a Local Government Act?

I also know, from talk around the Kuranda traps, of disquiet over the handling of the levy by the Mareeba Shire Council whilst Noel Briggs was CEO. As I have heard it, there were differences in the amounts as advised by the Minister and reported by the CEO.

The levy is of course what is supposed to be stumping up for the lion's share of the toilet facilities at Barron Gorge as promised by Labor's Steve Wettenhall in 2006, 2009 and probably 2012.

Noj Nedlaw said...

I apologise for posting again on this thread bit I am truly exasperated. I just listened to Noel Briggs radio interview from the posted link.

I could not believe some of what he said; so I listened again several times.

Noel says “…the situation affects myself and the mayor and myself and a senior staff member”.He says this just after trumpeting that “I have had zero involvement in the process”.

Guess what Noel, placing your interpretation on a report that you admit affects you – you are involved.

In this circumstance, there is a direct conflict of interest. Step away from it Noel, step away!

Hand the report intact to the Councillors or ask that your powers in this matter be delegated.

Otherwise your actions will be seen as compromising the process.

And I reckon that that is just not good enough.

brad m said...

Does the Freedom Of Information legislation offer any means of obtaining the report?

Syd Walker said...

There is a solution to this so far undiscussed, although like most good things, it would require a little effort.

A crowd of 500+ irate Cairns residents could easily seize control of Cairns Regional Council premises, locate the mysterious report and post it on the Internet. The whole saga could be over quickly, without unpleasantness, and participants would be safely back home long before the army arrived.

Even if a couple of busted locks had to be repaired afterwards, it would probably be cheaper than the QC's fee to take a lunchbreak.

I would probably advocate this course of action, if only sedition was not a felonious offense.

Of course, the valiant folk who dismantled the Berlin Wall and raided the Stasi's filing cabinets also committed serious criminal acts, but history smiles on winners. :-)

Unknown said...

thanks noj - he's just convicted himself out of his own mouth.