Wednesday 3 June 2009

$17,000 Council investigation to be hidden

The five week 'Cash for Comments' investigation by Cairns QC Henry, wound up in dramatic fashion this afternoon, following a midday 70-minute closed session of Cairns Regional Council, in which the CEO was present throughout.

Only Councillors Pyne and Leu voted against the final motion to with-hold the report from release and any public scrutiny.

It was revealed that $17,000 was paid to the investigator to produce the censured document.

"This must be considered in the context of the serious issues which affect the day to day management of Council," Briggs said in reference to the cost.

The meeting was chaired by Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane, as the Mayor was also one of those interviewed, however the CEO remained alongside the Chair throughout.

The report vindicated the Mayor, and found that she had no knowledge of any commercial arrangement for her, or other Councillors, to appear on Radio 4CA.

The CEO refused to take any questions, after he read his four-minute prepared statement to a packed media gathering in Council's 3rd floor Committee room. No cake was provided.

The Mayor has remained tight-lipped on the contents of the executive summary and also said she had not seen a copy of the investigator's report.

The executive summary, written by the CEO, was given to all Councilors and returned to the at the end of the meeting.

"I have found that the commercial arrangement between Council and Prime Radio 4CA to be appropriate, commercial, and in the best interests of Council," Noel Briggs announced.

The CEO said he will now take "all necessary steps to deal with the allegations concerning a member of staff as identified in the findings," Briggs said.

It is expected that the Manager of Corporate Communications, Kerie Hull, who played a central role in arranging the deal between Council and 4CA 846AM, will now face disciplinary measures, which could result in termination of her contract. She is on a salary of $130,000.

"The independent investigation was necessary because allegations had been made of perceived bias and/or conflict of interest on the part of myself," CEO Noel Briggs admitted.

Janine Aitken, a Council candidate for the 2008 election, said she was aware of concerned ratepayers who were filing a Crime and Misconduct Complaint today, as a result of the handling of this matter.

"The fact that the CEO admitted in his statement this afternoon, that he himself was investigated, is cause for serious concern," Janine Aitken said.

Councillor Julia Leu attempted to get an amendment to the Motion up, to request the report's release, however the Deputy Mayor, after consulting with the CEO on her left, disallowed it.

"I feel this is part of a culture, and after many years in local government, felt that action was wrong," Julia Leu said.

The meeting had a sober mood, with many heads hung low. There was a sense of relief by the Mayor that the investigation had concluded. "We have to get on with the business of running Council and have a budget to deliver," Mayor Val Schier said.

"No money has ever changed hands in this matter," Schier said.

I asked the Mayor if she still had confidence in the Chief Executive Officer.

"Yes, I have full confidence in the CEO of Cairns Regional Council," she said with a stern pose.

More news around Sux.

(I'll upload a series of recorded voice interviews with the CEO, Mayor and Councillors Cochrane, Leu and Pyne later.)


nocturnal congress said...


Council Watcher said...

Mike, please let us know how concerned ratepayers can sign/be part of a Crime and Misconduct Complaint.
Seeing that there is little or no reference to this shocking state of affairs on TV or in Compost something needs to happen to let all rate payers know what is going on and what their rate money is being spent on.

Anonymous said...

Once again a poorly handled "investigation" by the CEO. He just can't seem to get it right. Of course everyone wants to know what's in the report. To think that even the Mayor hasn't seen it when she requested it and asked for it to be done independently because the CEO was one of those to be interviewed. It never ceases to amaze me. If the report found that someone had lied, or had deliberately been trying to undermine the Mayor, why shouldn't we all know the circumstances. Why are people being protected. If it was an innocent mistake and Ms Hull forgot to the tell the Mayor that would be bad enough - but why not own up to it instead of lying and then being exposed. If that is the case she deserves to be exposed, along with anyone else who had a part in her sordid game.

David Anthony said...

This is outrageous and there needs to be an urgent investigation. No cake provided? Indeed.

nocturnal congress said...

What a bloody farce...all I can say is there must have been some explosive stuff in the full report for everyone to go to these lengths.
Christ, don't call for another "investigation into the tabling of the Henry Report"...I couldn't STAND seeing Far North Investigations or Colin McDowall being brought in AGAIN...
So Kerri Hull gets the chop then.
Well, my guess is she will pop up on 4CA or ABC or "The Compost" and vent her spleen against Val.

The Headless Horseman said...

Mike, the report must be sensational for the CEO to cover it up, especially the stuff pertaining to his part in the affair. Briggs owes it to the public to reveal his key role in the whole sorry saga.
He obviously knew about the seweetheart deal with McKenzie and kept this information from the Mayor. Why?
Thanks, David Anthony, for your lighthearted contribution.
Mike, you have done well to blow the whistle on the secret metings between Alan Blake and Kerie Hull.
They need to come clean as well.
I wonder what changes will take place in council operations as a result of the report's recommendations.
I suppose the first thing will be to change the locks on the broom cupboard.

David Anthony said...

And thank you, Headless, for yours.
But I am still very curious as to Sno Bonneau's involvement as per your previous comments.
Was this canvassed in the investigation?
We know Sno knew about it, but we don't know to what extent he was involved in the set-up and who else knew. If Sno knew, others knew.

CBD Worrier said...

Typically, the small thinkers and pinheads are missing the big enchilada.

The issue isn't who organised payment for Mackenzie for Val, it's the payment of Mackenzie during the election by council for Kevin Byrne. That's the only real issue that's got legs, and the one of serious import.

Payment by council to the media in support of the defeated mayor is a major electoral fraud.

All this other tripe is irrelevant.

Unknown said...

a cover-up from start to finish. and in keeping with mr anthony's tone, because this is nothing but a sick joke, briggs probably won't allow the tv cameras in when he gives himself a slap on the wrist. assuming he found himself guilty, of course. so - gain in keeping with high farce, what questions did his own secret inquiry ask of him? What answers did he give to his own secret inquiry? did anyone else give evidence to his own secret inquiry against him? Did his own secret inquiry ask other people about his involvement? Did their answers to his own secret inquiry corroborate him or did their answers to his own secret inquiry contradict what he told his own secret inquiry? what conclusions did his own secret inquiry come to regarding him? did his own secret inquiry question him about bringing the council into disrepute? did his own secret inquiry question him about any possible breaches of regulations. did his own secret inquiry question him about any possible breaches of the law, including the criminal law? did his own secret inquiry make any findings about him, or make any recommendations about him? or is hios own secret inquiry completely silent about his conduct? does his own secret inquiry recommend that he take any action against himself? what specific action as a consequence of his own secret inquiry does he intend to take against himself?

Quickie said...

Fascinating isn't it.

Val says "get me on "his show".
Kerrie gets Val on "his show" at a bargain price $250 per hour, ad free.

What's the fuss about?

And what's more fascinating is the trio of Schier, Forbes and Lesina all voted with the Bonneau, Blake, Cooper, Lansky, Gregory and Cochrane "super six".

Only the two "loose cannons", Leu and Pyne wanted the full story out.

But Briggs has quite correctly decided that a stable Council is in Cairns’ best interests.

nocturnal congress said...

I just cannot, for the life of me, get around the fact that the Mayor, whose credibility was at stake, did not see the full Henry Report before CEO Briggs censored it and presented his own version at Council. I mean, how disempowering and humiliating is that?
How would YOU feel?? Hey???

Quickie said...

Perhaps she was implicated nocturnal ... perhaps she was implicated.

I wonder why she and her two loyal lieutenants voted with the more conservative side of Council.

Briggs wants functionality, not a Douglas, Johnson type shit fight.

Maybe Briggs is smarter than those on this blog realise.

Not Quickie, but quick on the uptake said...

Quickie has succinctly hit the point of the various blogs and comments over the past few weeks.

My congratulations and thanks to him (or her).

The ratepayers of Cairns expected the Councillors they elected to run the show. The ratepayers of Cairns thought that the Councillors they elected ran the show.

Your closing comment :-
"But Briggs has quite correctly decided that a stable Council is in Cairns’ best interests."

clearly identifies what the reality is.

So Cairns ratepayers, the great Quickie has shown us the light, the truth, of the way of the Cairns Regional Council.

It’s not a democracy.

It’s not even an oligarchy.

It’s an autocracy of one, CEO Briggs; where he expects the Councillors to be his hand maidens, the staff to be ripe flowers for his plucking and the rest of us mere mortals to take be protected by his outstretched wings.

I can sleep easier tonight now.

Please CEO Briggs, draw me into your comforting embrace.

Alison Alloway said...

Yes, it's interesting isn't it nocturnal? A hugely unequal relationship between the community's ELECTED Mayor and a non-elected corporate CEO. The presentation of the Henry Report was hardly an example of "working together" was it? But bear in mind the legislation which Noj Nedlaw pointed out, has largely contributed to this inequality in governance.

Tinkerbelle said...

Yes Quickie a "stable" council - but who's going to shovel out all the s**t that has accumulated there? Be right up your street wouldn't it?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Constance Lloyd said...

To add further information, I understand a penalty unit is $100.00

Quickie said...

OK simpletons.

Let Val commission her own report if she wasn't happy with Brigg's report.

She asked Briggs for a report.
He gave his report which summerised the QC's report to her and the other Councillors.

Then Val, Lesina, Forbes and the "gang of six" voted for the report to be kept secret.

Another example of democracy at work I believe.

What's the problem?

She's happy, it's you lot that aren't.

Not Quickie, but quick on the uptake said... said...

Dear Dennis


To much red wine this early methinks!

Enough Rope said...

Some light reading!!

Might help Duffken Quick re-evaluate his lifes ambition.
1142 Disclosure of employee’s interest in particular issues

(1) An employee of a local government who has a material
personal interest in an issue to be, or being, dealt with by the
employee in the course of the employee’s duties—

(a) must immediately inform the chief executive officer, in
writing, of the interest; and

(b) must not deal with, or further deal with, the issue except
under the chief executive officer’s written directions.
Maximum penalty—35 penalty units.

(2) If the employee mentioned in subsection (1) is the chief
executive officer, the references in paragraphs (a) and (b) to
the chief executive officer are taken to be references to the

(3) In this section—
employee of a local government includes—

(a) a person who provides services to the local government
under a contract; and

(b) a person prescribed by regulation.
1143 Improper conduct by local government employees

(1) A local government employee must not ask for or accept a fee
or another benefit (other than remuneration paid by the local
government) for doing something as a local government
Maximum penalty—35 penalty units.

(2) A person who is or has been a local government employee
must not make improper use of information acquired as a
local government employee—
(a) to gain, directly or indirectly, an advantage for the
person or someone else; or
(b) to cause harm to the local government.
Maximum penalty—35 penalty units.

(3) A local government employee must not wilfully destroy or
damage property or records of the local government.

Joe,GordonvaleWhat said...

What in heavens name is going on with this council,why are nearly all councillors under the thumb of Briggs the CEO.
Val has now lost me for sure,she has not the gumption to order Briggs to table the report in question for all councillors to review.Surely Boyle has to be brought into this mess and try to sort it out

Alison Alloway said...

Briggs is probably correct in with-holding the Henry Report which would only be as accurate as the interviewees statements. We can all guess the staff member named who will most likely lose a job. That in itself is a severe punishment without being subject to a rash of publicity as well.
However Briggs actions in not working together with the Mayor on this is wrong. She should have seen the Henry Report when it first arrived and been equally involved in the subsequent processes. This incident demonstrates the unequal relationships in the CRC dynamic.

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

It's all very well that Quickie intimates a "stable Council" would be enhanced by not allowing the report to be fully viewed by the public, & Val's assertion that we need to 'move one' (oh, how I dislike that phrase), however, there is no point in wallpapering over the rotting fish, because the fish will still be there, rotting & smelling, no matter how pretty the wallpaper.
The public are not a bunch of ninnies - we can smell spin-doctoring at a thousand paces.
The report must be made public, otherwise this will become an even more divisive counterpoint in the life of this Council. It will become the elephant in the room [which everyone pretends is not there].
But perhaps that is the purpose of not publishing the report - to create a climate for destabilisation of the council.
Why on earth are most of the Councillors agin publication? Have they been threatened? I wonder if this is the case, as even the normally gutsy Cr.'Up on the Roof' Forsyth voted against it being revealed.
What 'terrible' facts are being witheld that those Council officers interviewed wish to remain secret?
It is the public's report - we bloody paid for it - dearly - & it is our right to see it.
To not publish the report in full only leaves the situation open to much gossip and speculation.
I am extremely disappointed in Val - who's catchword throughout her election camapign and time as Mayor has been "transparency". I am sorry, I cannot believe she has not seen the full report. If she has not demanded to do so, she is fast in danger of being perceived as a fool in this situation.
I am sure the truth is a whole lot less unpleasant than what gossip and rumourmongering will spread.
Briggs is not only incompetent, he is almost criminally incompetent, & I am glad that a complaint to the Crime & Misconduct Commission has been instigated.

Jan from Kewarra said...

To Quickie, are you some kind of moron or what?

...the instability of this Council is what got us into this mess in the first place....

there is nothing functional, ethical or representational about this Council and yesterday's circus just proved that point once again!!

Quickie said...

Jan ... no I am not a moron.
If McKenzie has acceded to Val's demand and allowed her airtime on his show, none of what followed would have happened.
It is morons like you that love the intrigue and drama of the last few weeks.
That's why you contribute shite to this blog.
Let Val and Noel get on and get the budget sorted ... or are you still miffed that Noel Briggs, Alan Blake and Kerrie Hull still have their jobs.

Maybe a bit of "Army discipline" is required.
Do you know of any out of work ex army officers looking for a job?
I bet you do ... you voted one out.

Tony Hillier said...

If nothing else has come out of 'Rug-gate', at least it has forced the ComPost to get off its indolent arse and do something that resembles fair dinkum local reportage. All power to Cairns Blog for prodding the flaccid flanks of the Murdoch cash cow — it underlines the importance of having alternative media. Maybe it can goad the daily organ into more follow up stories!

Anonymous said...

Gee Quickie I didn't know KB was looking for a job. Last I heard he was a big time Director of a developer company. Although people in the neighbourhood say he does spend a lot of time mowing his lawn. That's when he's not trying to set up a version of the Melbourne Club in Cairns so that he can have some status in his sad life.

Alison Alloway said...

With all due respect to Mr. Henry and his position, I doubt that the whole truth was given to him by the interviewees. People can be remarkably creative or forgetful when their jobs or reputations are on the line. Thus, I doubt the Report contains the full story. Yes, this entire issue is about "transparency", but let's not overlook the fact that some people are less honest than others and have fewer principles and integrity. Having such corrupt individuals in an organisation would compromise a culture of transparency. Enfin!

macca attack said...

I will sumarise alisons blog , they lied , he transcribed, he denied, we died, laughing ,NOT!

KitchenSlut said...

A bit of "army discipline" Quickie? Maybe you really mean the My Lai mentality infecting your mindset, and some at Council, which lets you justify any actions as doing your job and justified by any means?

Ah yes, the "army discipline" required has been well proven by the hardened veterans of the battle of Long Pinot Noir down at Villa commanding troops of waiters in their service!

John, Kuranda said...

Tonight at 6.29pm the Queensland Parliament passed the Local Government Bill 2009.

This piece of legislation was rushed through all stages today on an urgency motion and will presumably be signed by the Governor and proclaimed very soon.

The Minister responsible for this passage was our own Desley Boyle.

I wonder if this new legislation will change anything at Cairns Regional Council?

nocturnal congress said...

Yeah, well, what's in the legislation??

John, Kuranda said...

Hey Nocturnal

Have been trying to get copy for last few days. Any assistance from any one reading the blog appreciated.

I assume that it will be listed in the legislation dattabase as soon as signed off by Gov.

You would think that CRC would have a copy (sans amendments moved by DB this arvo)

KitchenSlut said...

the cat's vomit said...

Well hallelujah, bros and sistahs!
Could be the State Government has been made to realise the original legislation corporatising the local governments had so many holes in it, Briggsie, McKenzie, the Gang of Four, Keri Hull, Tom Pierce, Phil Lewer, Jan Brewer, Philly Whitpot, Harry Hawkins, Dick Wilson and Uncle Tom Cobbley AN ALL were all able to blow straight through the "Cash for Comments".

Dutchie said...

Haha, you just beat me to it KSlut!

Interesting from that site:

"There is no provision for a code of conduct for councillors. The Local Government Bill 2009 instead sets out expectations, standards about transparent decision-making, board of director-like responsibilities and local government performance. A graduated system of penalties in provided for in the Local Government Bill 2009; and

Powers of the Minister to act in respect of local government has increased and includes suspending decisions made by local government, removing councillors and dissolving local government."

nocturnal congress said...

Interrresting! Very! Wonder if Mike will publish it all in full.

KitchenSlut said...

This one from Clayton Utz is also useful and fleshes out some more info.

Dutchie said...

Here's Desley Boyle's second reading speech:

Some exerpts:

"The environment of public administration has also changed, and ratepayers today rightly
expect high standards of accountability.

They want transparency in decision-making and they expect their councils to look over the
horizon and plan for future generations.

Residents not only want to understand how local government processes work, but also want to know who is accountable for the delivery of services.

As a result, the Bill before the House today clarifies provisions relating to the responsibilities of
mayors and chief executives.
This includes:
• Removing grey areas in what constitutes local government beneficial enterprises;
• Improving flexibility in engaging with Indigenous communities in relation to Deed of
Grant councils and community business; and
• Introducing council auditing, in addition to the requirements of the Auditor-General.

Importantly, the Local Government Bill 2009 articulates Queenslanders’ expectation that their elected representatives will look after the interests of all residents.

The Bill provides clear principles, roles and responsibilities and more effective penalties. The
code of conduct has been replaced with a new system for dealing with complaints about
councillor misconduct and poor performance.

A formal investigation process will be in place, enabling serious
allegations against councillors to be investigated by independent Regional Conduct Review
Panels and more serious or repetitive poor performance will be dealt with by the new State
Local Government Remuneration and Discipline Tribunal.

The panels and the tribunal will be able to use a range of penalties, from mediation and fines, to issuing warnings or suspending allowances.

In serious cases of misconduct, the Minister for the Local Government will be able to
recommend to the Governor in Council the suspension or dismissal of an individual councillor.

This new power is widely supported by stakeholders and is fairer than the status quo of dismissing an entire council because of the performance or misconduct of a few.

The Minister will retain my power to recommend to the Governor in Council to dissolve a council when the situation presents no other alternative."

Other parts go on about increasing community involvement and consultation. Good things!

Finally, I can say that I feel Desley has done something, and maybe, just maybe, listened to us!

Let's hope it works....

nocturnal congress said...

Let's hope it reduces the powers of the CEO to handle all Council Reports...........

Bring back the Stocks. said...

I am moved to write a musical comedy using this saga as the inspiration.
There is Hi farse , SEX , tragedy {for the rate payers} a red sports car, power struggles and it could all be set to a score played by on the Ukelayle. People would line up around the block to see all the fun and drama. The final seen would of course involve a set of stocks made of tropical timber. The rate payers in the audience could bring their own fruit.
What a nite out. They'd travel from Vladivostock to see this!

the cat's vomit said...

Err, no musical puh-leeeze, a straight out drama mixed with comedy would be sufficient. It would define todays values in the modern workplace where everyone wants "DA POWAH", prestige, adulation, big $$$, a bit of nooky on the side, people licking their arses - and what people will do to get "DA POWAH".

nocturnal congress said...

MIKE could ask a few of us to start writing a by one we can add things...then MIKE could publish it. There has to be comedy in it though.

the cat's vomit said...

HELP...SOS...SOS...It could also help focus on the changing media....the actions of the players for example could be subject to commentary by the bloggers who would be partly visible to the audience....Oh Christ, I'm not a playwright...someone help us here.
This is actually a brilliant idea...and would help promote the new media as well as focussing on dastardly behaviour in the workplace...

the cat's vomit said...

and I will write the sex scenes.