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March 31, 2023

Councillor removed from panel over alleged bias

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[author]Albert Elzinga[/author]

 Tweed Shire Cr Katie Milne has been thrown off the selection panel choosing a replacement for retiring general manager Mike Rayner after what she says was an ‘innocent’ comment she made to the Tweed Echo last week

Tweed Shire councillors on Tuesday voted 6–1 to remove the Greens councillor from the selection panel, which includes all seven councillors, because of her comments to The Echo about the job.

Cr Milne said in an interview with the Tweed Echo that ‘it would be wonderful to see a female general manager get the top job, but an applicant with environmental credentials would be even better.’

Mayor Barry Longland, who led the push to remove her, said Cr Milne’s ‘bias’ called into the question the ‘integrity of the selection process’ and left council open to criticism.

He said her removal was not an action he suggested lightly, but the appointment should be made ‘totally on merit and gender should not be a factor’.

Cr Longland said he accepted Cr Milne did not intend to corrupt the process but could not understand why she made such statements.

‘These things have consequences,’ Cr Longland said.

‘It would be totally unacceptable for me to say I preferred a white male as general manager.’

But Cr Milne said the comment was made in light of the fact no senior council roles were held by women and she would, all things being equal, prefer to see more women in senior positions. She added she would never want to see a less qualified person in charge simply because she was woman.

She said there were unusual reasons given for excluding some of the applicants but was abruptly cut short by the mayor who warned her about revealing confidential information.

However, Echonetdaily can reveal the mayor himself tipped off a journalist the previous day about his motion to expel her from the panel, which the public were not made aware of until he moved it.

Cr Milne will still be able to vote on the appointment when all councillors are asked to ratify their choice of candidate.


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