Tuesday 9 June 2009

You won't get away with it Mr Briggs

The last two months have exposed some ugly cracks in the high ranks of Cairns Regional Council.

The debacle, that Thomas Chamberlin at the Cairns Post coined, Cash for Comments has showed us all a peep-hole into the dirty dealings at Council that most of us who follow closely what has been going on, to be true.

When I arrived outside the Council Chamber last Wednesday lunchtime, a small battery-operated transistor radio was blasting away in the waiting area, a usually peaceful lobby. It was perched on top the glass cabinet, with our Council's first minute book from many years ago. A reminder of our democracy as Cairns became a municipality.

The screaming radio noise was a vain attempt by the media unit at Council to muffle any escaping words from the closed session in progress behind the Chamber doors. It was the last in a series of failed attempts to stop the public knowing what has been going on.

The Cairns Council is headed and run by Noel Briggs, not the Mayor and ten Councillors. That's the way he likes it, and that's the way he's running the show. You can see it the attitude in some staff, where they act more like arrogant sergeants, than servants to the people of Cairns.

This last two months have exposed Briggs for what he is, someone who thinks he is the judge and jury in this Council, our very own democracy gone wild at the will of one man and a few Councillors, that act like sheep on drugs.

However, there are a great deal of angry people, least of all the media, who appear to have finally awoken from their siesta, as they have been barred from probing and finding out the real story in the cash for comments carry on.

Tell Bart Simpson not to touch the hot plate, and he will. Tell the public that they're not going to see the $17,000 report into Council's dodgy deal with a radio station and the culture that allowed it to occur, and we'll go digging with added hunger.

I despise calling Noel Briggs our Chief Executive Officer any longer. He's simply not befitting of such a high honour. He has abused the title and everything that this position is entrusted to carry out. He has failed to support the Mayor, and all the Councillors that the greater region of Cairns elected just over 12 months ago. He has treated the public with such grave disrespect, that it is he who is now firmly in the spotlight. And about bloody time.

Mayor Val Schier did herself a huge disservice on Wednesday. She turned up to the media conference without any prepared statement. She fumbled and was caught off guard. She gave a b-grade Oscar performance saying she had confidence in the CEO. She said she simply "wanted to move on." That's not good enough. Val can't allow such an important report, that she requested, be hidden and buried. After all, the report was all about the under-mining of the Mayor herself and her management.

The following day, on Thursday, Val Schier came out and disagreed with one point in the CEO's statement the day before. Why on earth did she wait? Where's her anger at this destabilising CEO that has allowed her first term of Council to be marred by such horrid goings on?

Over the weekend, I chatted to some local TV journalists that attended Wednesday's non-event, where Briggs was so rude to the media, and treated them all with such contempt. They are angry, and they're not going to accept being lied to about such an important document being hidden away.

It's fair to say now, that Jim Henry's SC's report describes an internal Council culture of lawless warriors, undermining the very democracy we should expect from our senior staff and elected representatives. It talks about a culture of arrogance and bullying, that many thought was disposed of after Kevin Byrne et all was booted out a year ago.

Besides the poorly-performing Councillors of Blake, Bonneau and Cochrane, the only other continuum from the Byrne era is Briggs - the bumbling fool, who couldn't even deliver a one page simple prepared statement last Wednesday without stumbling and getting tongue-tied. It showed he was under pressure. Enormous pressure. He had good reason to feel uncomfortable. Briggs is holding the purse strings to some very big secrets, in a report that the Mayor asked to be commissioned.

By his own admission, his name is all over it. Briggs was a person of interest in Jim Henry's report. He was the reason why the Mayor wanted an independent report carried out, yet the Mayor allowed Briggs to write a tiny sanitised version for the Councillors, with all the gory bits removed.

This week it's likely that he will terminate the employment of the $130,000 Corporate Communications Manager, Kerie Hull.

Briggs' culture has allowed the likes of Hull to do what she did. It was at the making of Noel Briggs himself. He alone has allowed Councillors Blake, Bonneau and Deputy Mayor Cochrane to get away with such appalling behaviour, and plans to lock up this report in order to protect himself and them from scrutiny.

Whilst Kerie Hull isn't a white knight in all this, as she willingly played the power game with the fools that encouraged her to, Briggs is now washing his hands of his former late night comrade and trying to show us that he's dealing with the problem. Kerie Hull won't take this lying down, and I applaud her as she exposes the CEO for what he is.

Councillor Alan Blake will have an awkward time ahead, as he's so intertwined in all this mess, he'll hardly come out clean.

However, Hull is not the real problem. Nor is Sonja Anderson in Council's media unit. They have proved to be a most ineffective team by any measure. They have truly not advanced the goals of PR for the elected representatives and the region of Cairns. They have instituted walls against almost anyone who approaches them for assistance, least of all the media. This team needs to go.

They're not the primary problem. They operate in a culture that allows such behaviour to foster and grow. Briggs has created a climate where information is managed to advance the agenda he's pursuing, not the elected representatives under the direction of Mayor Val Schier.

He wont get away with it. Briggs, and all those he's protecting, will be exposed and held to account for the damage and disruption they have unleashed.

Late last week, I chatted with a very senior LNP official. He said that Councillor Alan Blake should 'fall on his sword' for his part in this despicable game. Councillor Sno Bonneau also was at the centre of this game, and his behaviour needs exposing for all to see, given what we already know about this Councillor, who operates under his own laws.

The Henry report, when released, will show Briggs is the virus in the Council, and is seriously risking the future of our Council. He's supported by at least three totally inept Councillors that have been more focused on political games, than governing our Region. They will all pay for their behaviour.

A CMC complaint has been filed and the Minister of Local Government and Cairns MP Desley Boyle, should stop having cosy lunches with Noel Briggs and intervene in this whole mess.


Anonymous said...

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Tabulo, Phipps and Elphinstone, just to name a few are amid the second level of this endemic culture that has been rotting away the very core of OUR Council! With each having their own private agenda, there’s little to no communication between parties and the word “Co-operation” has been banned from council’s work ethic.

Ministerial Intervention?

Desley Boyle, Minister for “Media Releases” has been shoved from one portfolio to another only to see the last portfolio she held dissolved as no longer being required. Remember when she was Minister for the Environment? What a joke! The end is nigh, all we can hope for is that they leave town and work elsewhere, once they’re released from jail that is!
Enough Rope

nocturnal congress said...

Hmmm, a toxic culture such as this takes years to develop and usually starts with poor authoritarian style management. People being people then react accordingly. The good ole CRC wouldn't be the only workplace to be as toxic as this. Get Mike to peer into any other big workplace and he will find the same ole shit. We work in a world dominated by egos, power and $$$$.

Jude Johnston said...

You have to remember that when Mr Briggs took over from David Farmer who moved to Wollongong,the culture was already well entrenched. Mayor Byrne ran a ship with no dissention, and we all know any Community Group or ratepayer who dared to question Council, received either the legal letter or the phone calls. Councillors, Bonneau, Gregory and Bake are now naughty schoolboys, flexing their muscles and being bullies in the playground. This negative culture of contempt and arrogance needs expunging and the only way to do that is to start at the top and work down. We, the ratepayers expect people in Council we can respect and trust that Council decisions, even if it is not too our liking, were made with full information being made available to Councillors and that every action is open and transparent. Not too much to ask is it?

Anonymous said...

Amen! Great post Mike! It sums it up so well, keep the up excellent work! Hopefully the blood will hit the walls very soon!

Quickie said...

Then why did Mayor Val, Kirsten Lesina, Diane Forsyth, Linda Cooper, Nancy Lanskey, and Paul Gregory all vote with the "terrible trio" of Blake, Bonneau and Cochrane to keep the report secret.
You must realise that it's a "she said", "she said" situation with some Councillors in receipt of emails implicating that the Mayor had knowledge that Kerrie had to "buy Time" to get her on air.
You see, Mayor Val dug the hole she got in all by herself, with her dismissal of John McKenzie's original offer to have her fill Kevin Byrnes spot.
And also remember, Mayor Kev sacked both Blake and Cochrane from the Unity team, when they displayed "dis-unity".
Seems Mayor Val doesn't have the "ticker" to do that.

Noj Nedlaw said...


Hate to be pedantic (and burst your ever present scweppervessent bubble) but the councillors were never asked to vote of the release of the Henry report; only on the Quickeze version of the Executive Summary as prepared by the CEO Noel Briggs for the edification of his councillors.

the cat's vomit said...

I add my voice with the cany lass who was first off the mark by saying Briggs was "probably right in not releasing the full Report."
I can only deduct that it would contain a litany of lies and perfidy befitting a culture of vipers.

Quickie said...

Hey Jon Walden ...

Didn't either Leu or Pyne move an amendment to have the QC's report released?

And didn't that ammendment get "jumped on" and defeated by the Schier, Lesina Forsyth and others?

Let's have QC Henry's report released and watch the meltdown of our present Council.

Or Briggs for trying to keep some stability.

Let the ukuleles play ...

" To be or not to be, that is the Question" said...

Quickie I like others want to get to the bottom of this sordid scenario and welcome your input but please do not stop there.

Your claim "that some Councillors in receipt of emails implicating that the Mayor had knowledge that Kerrie had to 'buy Time' to get her on air" needs to be fleshed out if only for the record.

So why do you not do the community a favour and tell us more; like who are these councillors that are in receipt of implicating emails.

Airing the above information would put to rest "I said, she said, we said." and the the real miscreants are hung to dry....do you not think so Quickie?

Bring back the Stocks. said...

Quickie. Your sources are true and I agree there is much more to this than we have been lead to believe. Val has been less than honest it appears and so Briggs has told her how the game will be played. If you are the leader you need to lead. Who runs our Council? Who knows. Where next? How is this to be sorted out?
Time will tell and the result? Wait and see!

Noj Nedlaw said...


My understanding is that Leu foreshadowed the motion in closed session, but was not allowed by Cochrane as Chair to proceed.

Again this highlights the role that Briggs as gatekeeper plays - the Henry report was never presented to Council - so no motion could be placed by any councillor for its release.

I am glad to see Quickie that you seem to have moved away from an adversorial stance to one of community awareness - to go back to the 70's rhetoric, Let my report be free!

Bene Gesserit said...

Oddly enough I think right now Briggs would like someone to force him to release it. He would probably love a totally independent investigation by the State Government or CMC. He would then be free to put aside the legal instruction to not release it.

The legal advice/input was evident in his email to Councillors published here on Cairns Blog and the media statement following the meeting. Amongst other things I suspect he was told to keep it confidential so that he might deal with the any disciplinary issues confidentially as is the norm in any workplace.


To follow proper procedure and limit the exposure of the Council to legal suites for claims of wrongful dismissal, defamation etc, which would certainly be the case if the report was made public. If someone was publicly outed in the contents of the report without the chance to present further evidence against the charge then this would be a costly situation for the Council and therefore us as rate payers.

Fiona Tulip said...

Quickie you are dreaming...

"Or Briggs for trying to keep some stability"

There is nothing stable about the CEO, some of the Councillors, the Council planners and Officers who lie to residents, act unethically to primarily benefit developers, who go out of their way to keep issues as non transparent as they can, who have on several occassions made illegal changes to Council Minutes or recorded statements that are downright porkies or deliberately made changes to cover up their mistakes and then when that is not enough, even hold Special meetings to retropectively approve mapping errors that have significantly benefited a major developer in this town.

Get real Quickie and stop beating that ol drum. It is nauseating....!!!

This latest debacle only shines a spotlight on the tip of the iceberg. Everything else I have said sits below the surface and not seen by every resident nor it would seem our deaf, dumb and blind Cairns Post.

There are very serious issues of public mistrust involving just about every aspect of the way this Council functions, which must be addressed one way or the other....and sooner rather than later.

Quickie said...

What a load of unsubstantiated crap you sprout, Tulip muncher.
Noel is the glue that is keeping this Council from coming apart.
Give the poor guy credit - it's not easy keeping a bunch of ideologically differing souls working in some sort of harmony.
When you have Councillors deliberately flouting the law with trespass actions.
And a Mayor having to apologise for suggesting her Councillors were acting irrationally just because she didn't get her own way.
And again, a Mayor that back flips on several election promises that won her the mayoralty, then who would want Brigg’s job.
Full credit to CEO Briggs !!!

Anonymous said...

Quickie you seem to be a bit out of touch. Val doesn't have a "unity" team to sack Cochrane and Blake from - if only! You know how destructive Blake is and you know Cochrane follows along for her own advantage. As far as the report remaining confidential - for now - that is the correct process when staff are to be the subject of disciplinary action. It is a pity that Briggs wasn't able to give a more illuminating report, without comprising the staff discipline matter, but unfortunately he isn't the brightest cracker in the box. Val didn't know about or condone the deal and people have deliberately lied to her and at the same planted the seeds to cause her maximum damage. Briggs may not be a willing partner in the conspiracy, but he doesn't seem to be able to handle complex matters at all well.

Anonymous said...

And another thing Quickie. Can you say that again, I don't believe I heard that correctly. "Noel is the glue that is keeping Council from falling again". He's clag alright, but not glue. So it's not easy for Noel to manage this bunch of Councillors who are deliberating leaking misinformation to the press and or anyone else who will listen, who are deliberating plotting and scheming against the Mayor. Gee that might be why Val is having the same problem. Maybe if she had a decent CEO managing (which is the CEO's job) Council would run as it can and should.

Andrew Tunney said...

Here, here!! Why spend that amount of money then not make it public - there's value for the rate payers of Cairns!

Fiona Tulip said...

In response to Quickie,

Interesting that you liken Noel to glue. What he is cracking, dried out and is failing to adhere to anything?....

Yes, I would have to agree with you there!!

As for unsubstantiated claims, that is where you are incorrect and clearly have no insight into issues on the Northern Beaches. But then again, you were KB's right hand and he lost the election because he failed to take our issues seriously.

Now, let me remind everyone, you jumped the sinking ship before the election loss.....Are you psychic or psycotic Quickie?

Alison Alloway said...

Thank you Bene Gesserit for offering a reason why Briggs would not publicly release the Henry Report.

"To follow proper procedure and limit the exposure of the Council to legal suites for claims of wrongful dismissal, defamation etc, which would certainly be the case if the report was made public."

That's good enough for me. And I stick to my views as well that the Report would not have contained the full truth.

"To be or not to be that is the Question" said...

Hey Quickie....I suspect that you feel like your in a Lions Den and that you might have had too much red vino last night to respond to my legitimate question but today is another day in paradise and I would like answers to my query!

Come on show us the colour of your money, otherwise we might think you are after all the organ grinder!

Syd Walker said...

Bene Gesserit may be correct that Mr Briggs has legal grounds for witholding release of the 'Henry report'. I'll leave the lawyers to argue about that.

It still doesn't affect what I think is the fundamental problem that's emerged in this case: the apparent ability of the CEO to act as sole gatekeeper over a report in which he himself features.

That's such an affront to any normal sense of natural justice that the mind reels.

Is this a banana democracy?

The Headless Horseman said...

Quickie sounds like one of those poor sods who still haven't got over the unlamented Kevin Byrne's loss at the last election.
There were several factors behind Byrne's deserved defeat. He wrecked the heritage values of this city, his gung-ho pro-development attitude left people from Gordonvale to the Northern Beaches more vulnerable to flooding and he was responsible for getting police to shut down live music venues so people wouldn't go "willy-nillying" around the CBD.
On top of this Kevin Byrne was less than honest with the community. We saw this again when he said in "The Cairns Post" that his council never paid for his weekly slot with his mate John McKenzie. John McKenzie then goes on the air to say council had been paying for Kevin Byrne's session for years. So who was telling the truth, huh? Both Byrne and McKenzie were very clear in their contradictory statements.
Why hasn't the media nailed Byrne over cash-for-comment?
I'm fairly comfortable about the Henry Report not being released if it protects innocent people. But I am uncomfortable about the bodgied-up version of the report by Byrne CEO Noel Briggs.
Briggs, like Quickie and McKenzie, is still crying into his corn flakes bowl every morning about Byrne's defeat nearly a ytear-and-a-half ago. While I admire their ability to hold grudges for such a long time, I am less than impressed with the Machiavelliean games they are playing behind the scenes.
Alan Blake, Sno Bonneau and by association Margaret Cochrane are up to their eyeballs in the cash-for-comment scandal and need to come under more media pressure to come clean with the ratepayers.
Blake's secret meetings with the communications officer Kerie Hull must be explained. Briggs can't hide behind confidentiality in relation to this conflict of interest occurring between councillors and staff.
The Byrne era is over, boys. Time to grow up and move on. And if Noel Briggs (and Kerie Hull too for that matter) can't support the Mayor, then they should look for another job.
And if the Iago-like Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane can't be loyal to the Mayor, then she too should go. Please.
Very pleased that our Mayor Val Schier has stooped into the gutter politics of her detractors.
Unlike them, Val puts Cairns First.

nocturnal congress said...

Syd, I'm only surmising here, but I would think Mr. Henry would have discussed that with both the Mayor and the CEO ie the legal reasons why the Report shouldn't be made public.

nocturnal said...

Thanks "Headless" for recapping the Byrne years. Added to this of course is the way he gagged Councillors from speaking in the Chamber by turning off their microphones. Byrne was a despotic bully of a Mayor.

nocturnal congress said...

Corporate Communications Manager - Salary - $130,000 - utterly bloody amazing how those at the top in corporations get such huge salaries...and of course the ratepayer pays for it...

Thornton On Spence said...

If you give it some thought Cr Blake is way too stupid to cleverly orchestrate the Cash For Comments. His brain is located below his waistband and this is where he coincidentally became embroiled in this whole affair through his after hours brain stimulation with Kerrie Hull. Me thinks Briggs and Co are laughing at us all thinking Cr Blake could be even half smart enough to be behind this.

David Anthony said...

I always look forward to The Headless Horseman's contributions. He has a great head on his shoulders.
One thing he could have mentioned in his latest diatribe is something I find most ironic.
The only member of the Byrne team to get elected to council at the last election was Linda Cooper.
But despite this, I have formed an impression that she is genuinely interested in advancing the Cairns region and has an ability to work with others despite differences of politicial allegiances and opinions.
She doesn't seem biased for or against the Mayor or any single councillor, but endeavours to reach her decisions through careful thought and reasoning.
I wish the Anti-Val Brigade had this ability to think of the future of our region rather than their petty little politicking.
Hey Thornton on Spence, that's a bit below the belt, mate.

KitchenSlut said...

'Stig' I dind't know George had a Villa Romana in Kampala? But nothing would surprise me!