A former Tweed shire chief planner who was on the shortlist for the prized general manager’s job on Tweed council has suddenly quit the race but denied it had anything to do with a brewing controversy over the selection process.
David Broyd, who quit as planning director in 2003 following intense pressure from pro-development councillors, told Echonetdaily his decision yesterday to withdraw as a candidate for the plum job was business related.
Mr Broyd, now a planning consultant based on the NSW central coast, said he had foreshadowed such a decision from the outset of his application for the job, as his business had tendered for some major projects around the same time.
‘I’ve had success with both those submissions and I feel I should honour the commitments by my company to those clients,’ he said.
Mr Broyd was one of around 10 short-listed candidates for the $200,000-plus job following council’s decision some months ago to sack David Keenan, who was appointed to replace long-serving general manager Mike Rayner who quit suddenly in 2012.
Another contender for the job, current Ballina shire GM Paul Hickey, has also withdrawn from the field of applicants, according to mayor Barry Longland, but his reasons remain confidential.
Interviews for the position started this week.
The controversy over the recruitment process arose as a result of a refusal by veteran councillor Warren Polglase to comment on whether he faced a conflict of interest in helping to select a new Tweed GM from a shortlist that included Mr Broyd, a former nemesis.
Mr Broyd 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 said he would not comment on the confidential selection process or whether he had an axe to grind with Mr Broyd.
In contrast, 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.
But mayor Longland, who is chair of the selection panel, this week refused to sideline Cr Polglase over the conflict, saying he wanted to ‘assure all Echonetdaily readers that the selection will be thoroughly merit based’.
Cr Longland said ‘no advantage or disadvantage will result for any applicant as a consequence of the Echonetdaily story’ and that the selection for the GM ‘will continue as planned by the panel consisting of all seven councillors’.
The withdrawal by Mr Broyd has disappointed many observers, including past and present Tweed Shire Council staff who had welcomed the possible return of the well-regarded planner.
A former colleague told Echonetdaily this week that Mr Broyd had ‘gained an in-depth knowledge of the Tweed during his 12 years as the shire’s chief planner and should be an absolute shoe-in for the job given his internationally-recognised credentials and his undoubted integrity’.
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 which preceded council’s sacking that he came under intense pressure from pro-development 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 council was a puppet 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 also singled out for honorable mention for maintaining a high-level of professional integrity in his role as chief planner at Wollongong council when an ICAC inquiry in 2008 found that other colleagues had succumbed to corrupt behaviour.
Prof 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 for six years at Port Stephens, near Newcastle, and has racked up an unprecedented fourth term as NSW president of the Australian Planning Institute.
He quit Port Stephens Council early last year, ending a 30-year career in local government to pursue a career in consultancy.