Monday 21 September 2009

Council communications manager faces the music today

Sources within Cairns Regional Council have confirmed that the Corporate Communications Manager, Kerie Hull, who was indicted in a $17,000 radio deal investigation of wrong-doing, will be summoned today to a meeting that will decide her fate, nearly four months after being stepped down on full pay.

Kerie Hull was asked to leave the office on April 23rd, and although has returned to undertake some duties, have largely been away from work since.
"It's been going on for far too long," a staffer in Council said. "It needs to come to a head and be dealt with for everyones sake."

After the release of an executive summary of the Henry Report, written by former CEO Noel Briggs on the 3rd June, Hull's future was questioned, as the findings vindicated the Mayor. However, Briggs resigned and left suddenly just a week later, and never dealt with his senior Communications Manager. Speculation gathered about the extent of Briggs' involvement in the affair. It seemed that the ensued public scrutiny about his involvement was something he didn't want, after he refused many media calls for release of the secret Henry Report.

As the interviews for the new CEO concluded on Friday, the acting CEO Peter Tabulo wants to tie up loose ends this week.

Kerie Hull's claim before the Government's WorkCover, a scheme set up to support those who cannot work temporally due to illness, injury or stress, is believed to have been rejected by investigators. In July, I revealed that whilst Ms Hull was on paid leave from her $130,000 Council media role, she was moon-lighting under her own company Publicity Works NQ. She was forced to make a statement to say her work was "voluntary." However, WorkCover is very explicit about what activity is allowed whilst a claim is being considered and the claimant is on "stress leave."

"I was aware of this and the matter is being looked into," Peter Tabulo said when was made aware of the information on CairnsBlog.

Ms Hull, an experienced and career communications professional, has been seen engaging in media work for Noel Pearson of Cape York Institute. There's little doubt that she was behind the weekend feature column in the weekend paper under Pearson's name. It is believed that Kerie Hull is now working for it's sister organisation, Balkanu.

According to yesterday's weekend Cairns Post, Ms Hull has put her half million dollar Trinity Park house on the market. Maybe the last few months has not been as financially lucrative, had she not be coerced by some wayward Councillors and senior staff. Kerie Hull simply fell in with the wrong crowd and got lured by the power of false prophets. Such a shame, as there was so much good work to do as the new Council got it's feet and a whole new political era was welcomed early last year. It was by any measure, the dream communications job for this career-climbing wonder woman.

The Council media unit has had little strategic direction since Kerie Hull was appointed one year ago this week. It's been introverted and protective, and often fails to facilitate the tasks it exists to do. It has been the hub for much undermining.
It was back in early April when I started to take a serious interest in it's dysfunction when I asked Hull to be put on Council's media distribution list. I was fobbed off by Hull and CEO Noel Briggs. A week or so later, a majority of Councillors, besides Bonneau, Cochrane, and surprisingly Gregory, voted for full open media access and sent a strong message to Hull and Briggs that they won't be closing the doors of information to any interested Blogger or writer.

Councillor Alan Blake has befriended Ms Hull and worked activity to undermine the Mayor that resulted in a failed and embarrassing conclusion with an expensive ratepayer-funding investigation.
Councillor Blake who said in a telephone call to me, "I'd leave her out of anything you write about me, because I tell you what, what a fantastic worker that girl is."

Again on ABC Far North on June 26th, Fiona Sewell questioned Blake about the status of Kerie Hull's employment.

"Council has a very competent Communications Manager, she's made some great changes in there," Blake said. "The jury's out, it's the Mayor's word against hers, it's an operational issue." When asked if Kerie Hull was still working at Council, Blake said she's still employed by Council. "I don't think she's actually working at the premises at the moment."

"Do you know why?" Fiona Sewell asked. "No I don't, that's an operational matter and we'll leave that with our acting CEO," Alan Blake said.

Privately, Alan Blake has said to other Councillors that "she'll never work at Council again." When questioned, he says that "[Mayor] Schier would never have her back."

Councillor Blake and Kerie Hull were exposed engaging in private meetings that were not disclosed to the CEO, during the secret deal done with radio 846am, and also the ensuing external investigation by QC Jim Henry.

It was widely discussed that Ms Hull was behind the leaking of Council budget details in late June, and a number of 'leaks' to the Cairns Post, one that mentioned a $6,000 media backdrop wall, that Hull had designed and ordered all by herself, yet the faithful News Ltd paper attributed the excessive waste to the Mayor.

It's undoubtedly what led to Councillor Blake being sacked from head of the Finance committee.
One of the first tasks for the newly appointed CEO, which will be announced next week, will be to form a new media and communications unit. Over the last couple of months, Cairns library manager Kerrie Still took over the role as the acting communications manager, and Lee Finkelstein, the media coordinator's role whilst Sonja Anderson has taken a month's leave.

This week makes exactly one year since Kerie Hull was appointed to the role.

A bottle of chilled Moet might be in order tonight.
**FULL CairnsBlog coverage of the 846am radio deal with Cairns Regional Council.


David Farrar, Kiwiblog said...

Enjoyed your post on the Comms Manager. You must be the most feared person in the Council

David Farrar
Director, Curia Market Research

Director, .nz Registry Services

Author, Kiwiblog

Ross Parisi said...

I would like to add to the comments made by David Farrar.

The energy exuded by Cairns Blog is having a beneficial effect on the body politic of Cairns.

It is a forum, without fear or favour, where contributors from street level, Government agencies to Corporate boardroom have the opportunity for comment.

There has been some resistance from Councillors, Politicians and traditional media, because it is a new phenomenon and an instrument that they have little or no control over. No doubt they are busily working out ways and means to manage Blogs's influence and growing popularity.

The immediacy of Blogs in general and Cairns Blog in particular is one of the reasons why traditional outlets are finding difficulty coming to terms with the growing effect and popularity of new media.

Since the demise of 'The Barfly' Cairns has missed an organ with the propensity to investigate core issues that effect public probity. Cairns Blog has and will continue to provide such need.

Thornton On Spence said...

I think the Bottle of Moet is reserved for Council Employees and Councillors Salaries. Combine one Councillor and one Employee Salary and make that 2 Bottles.

Anonymous said...

You are spot on again Mike - it is now on Cairns Post website. Interesting though that the Post continues to imply that the Mayor must have known about the Cash for Comment fiasco, even though she has been vindicated through the Henry Report and the lack of any proof provided by Ms Hull and others to the contrary. When will the Post admit that Ms Hull and the former CEO were at fault and that they should pay the price, instead of continuing to try and shift the blame. And as for Tom Chamberlain's idea that Noel Briggs should be on the selection panel for the new CEO - is he a complete moron, or just adopting a Gavin King type of "humour".

nocturnal congress said...

Why the hell are their salaries so high?? What was Ms Hull receiving? $120,000??? And why does the CRC CEO have to receive such an over-inflated salary as well? Aussies have had a gutful of this greedy breed of fatcat dipping their snouts into the taxpayers trough and parading around with their hands up themselves.

Thaddeus said...

It's amazing the amount of damage a WRONG person can do in a workplace. Yeah, I'm sure we all have our stories...passed over for promotion by a brown-nosing dipstick,,,time moves on and all havoc breaks out in the business thanks to the ineptitude of the dipstick who then cracks a real darky and takes leave. I wish I had a dollar for every similar story I hear.....

Jamie O, Clifton said...

Yay another one bites the dust.

SO is that the last of the dirty traitors?

JJ Pewtree said...

Another beautiful day in the far north. sun is shining. birds are singing. the reek is getting more sediment frome False Cape. and another Council employee gets the boot. :-)