Allegations unfounded: Mayor

COFFS HARBOUR Mayor Keith Rhoades says council staff are in the clear.

The mayor said the Department of Premier and Cabinet’s Promoting Better Practice Review final report showed allegations against Coffs Harbour City Council employees in recent years were unfounded. City councillors discussed and tabled the review at the August 11 council meeting.

Cr Rhoades said the review was brought forward at the request of the council following allegations of corruption against council employees and mishandling of projects during the refurbishment of council offices and other activities.

“There was information put out there on council staff which was grossly misleading,” Cr Rhoades said.

“Staff should not have to put up with allegations such as have been made in this town during the past 18 months to two years.

“The review has 26 recommendations of a very minor nature.

“It is a credit to staff in this organisation and shows staff are acting correctly and professionally.”

“I can’t let it go by without making the comment that it would be wrong if the council did not support its staff.”

The council’s general manager, Steve McGrath, who took up his post just before the review was conducted in December 2010, said the report on Coffs Harbour showed the local council was “right up there as one of the better ones”.

In February 2010 the council’s then general manager Stephen Sawtell launched an investigation into how the refurbishment of Rigby House and the council’s administration building was handled. The council spent $923,406 on upgrading the two buildings in 2009-10, but only $145,000 of that had been voted for by the councillors for Rigby House.

In August 2010 the Independent Commission Against Corruption cleared the council of corruption and the councillors voted to allocate the balance of funds from the asset management, water and sewer reserves.

At last week’s council meeting, Cr John Arkan asked for a report to the October meeting of the council, tabling what had been achieved as a result of the 28 recommendations included in the review, but Mr McGrath said such a report would not contain much information.

“The great majority of recommendations were operational issues which we had already identified,” Mr McGrath said. “A report will be sent to the Division of Local Government every six months until implemented and at the same time we will provide a report to the councillors.”

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