Veteran Tweed councillor Warren Polglase has refused to comment on whether he faces a conflict of interest in helping to pick a new council supremo from a shortlist of candidates that includes a former nemesis, David Broyd.
Mr Broyd, who quit as Tweed’s chief planner in 2003 following intense pressure from some councillors, later gave damning evidence to an inquiry, which resulted in a pro-development council led by Cr Polglase being sacked in disgrace in 2005.
Cr Polglase told Echonetdaily yesterday he could not comment on the confidential selection process for the general manager’s job, interviews for which start this week.
He was asked whether he had an axe to grind with Mr Broyd or whether he should be sidelined from the selection process to find a replacement for David Keenan, who Council axed after less than 12 months in the job.
During the selection process for Mr Keenan early last year, the then council disqualified Greens councillor Katie Milne after she had suggested publicly that she would like to see a woman in the top job.
Mr Broyd’s surprise nomination for the role, as well as those by former and current GMs from Byron and Ballina shires, spread like wildfire last month despite the strict secrecy normally surrounding the selection process.
Past and present Tweed Shire Council staff have welcomed the possible return of the well-regarded planner.
‘[David Broyd] gained an in-depth knowledge of the Tweed during his 12 years as the shire’s chief planner and should be an absolute shoo-in for the job given his internationally recognised credentials and his undoubted integrity,’ a former colleague said this week.
Mr Broyd quit his Tweed planning post to join Wollongong Council after being targeted by some councillors who saw him as an obstacle to development, particularly in regard to the Kings Forest project.
He told the inquiry that preceded the council’s sacking that he came under intense pressure from councillors who had ‘a lack of regard for planning policy and legalities, public interest, open space and more’.
The inquiry, headed by Professor Maurice Daley, found the majority of councillors were ‘puppets’ of developers, with pro-development councillors, including Cr Polglase, elected with the help of a secret developer-funded war chest, with companies controlled by Kings Forest owner Bob Ell among the biggest contributors.
Mr Broyd was exonerated by a previous inquiry in 2003 which found allegations of impropriety over Kings Forest by a pro-development councillor Bob Brinsmead were untrue, but found that Cr Brinsmead and council colleague Lynne Beck were inappropriately close to developers. The ICAC later cleared the council of any corrupt behaviour.
Mr Broyd was also singled out for honorable mention for maintaining a high level of professional integrity in his role as chief planner at Wollongong City Council when an ICAC inquiry in 2008 found that other colleagues had succumbed to corrupt behaviour.
Professor Daley later described Mr Broyd as ‘a very good planner, a very good public servant and a very brave bloke’ for refusing to bow to pressure.
He later served as chief planner at Port Stephens, near Newcastle, and has racked up an unprecedented fourth term as NSW president of the Australian Planning Institute.
He is among 10 shortlisted candidates who have thrown their hats into the ring for the $200,000-plus job following the council’s decision to sack Mr Keenan, who was appointed to replace long-serving general manager Mike Rayner, who quit suddenly in 2012.
Community watchdog group Tweed Monitor said Mr Broyd was run out of town by a ‘development mafia’ but the community would welcome him back with open arms.
‘He is a man of the highest integrity and is exactly the type of person that is needed to guide the future direction of the Tweed,’ spokesman Jerry Cornford said.
‘He was certainly the best planning director Council had for a long time, especially during a time of intense pressure from development,’ Mr Cornford said.
‘Cr Polglase in my view has a definite conflict of interest in sitting on the selection panel and if Cr Milne was disqualified last time from the panel over a conflict, then it stands to reason he should do the same, or be ordered to do so by the mayor,’ he said.
Cr Milne, having been barred from the selection process for Mr Keenan, boycotted the council meeting that appointed him unanimously, telling mayor Barry Longland she was doing so because of her ‘concerns for proper governance’ in light of her expulsion from the panel and interview process.
This time around, a total of 38 people applied for the vacant plum job, which Cr Longland has described as the ‘jewel in the crown’ of local government.
Applicants included former Byron Shire general manager Graeme Faulkner, who cut short his five-year contract with the council early last year by 12 months and in July 2012 was appointed chief executive of the Norfolk Island administration.
Another is current Ballina Shire GM Paul Hickey, who was appointed to that role in 2007 after senior positions at Lismore City, Byron and Ballina shire councils.
A consultancy firm, Local Government Management Solutions, was voted by councillors to conduct the Tweed GM recruitment process.
It is a unit of Local Government NSW, which represents all councils in NSW and was formed earlier this year from the merger of the Local Government Association of NSW and the Shires Association of NSW.
The decision earlier this year by a majority of councillors, including Cr Longland, to terminate Mr Keenan’s contract was later vindicated by a Division of Local Government review.