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Byron Shire
February 25, 2024

Lismore City Council’s Groundhog Day – new GM starts next week

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How things change. The then Mayor, Vanessa Ekins, with the soon to be ex-GM, Michael Donnelly. Photo Vanessa Ekins.

News has leaked this morning that it’s Groundhog Day at Lismore Council.

Reliable sources close to Lismore Council, who asked not to be named, have shared with The Echo that the new Lismore Mayor Steve Krieg has called an Extraordinary Meeting for next Monday afternoon – at which time it will be announced that the current General Manager, Michael Donnelly, will be leaving Council. This is one day shy of the anniversary of the same event with a different GM last year – and on Tuesday morning, a new general manager will start work. That is assuming that Mayor Kreig has the support of the majority of other councillors at the Monday meeting. 

That will make it five GMs in five years.

Controversial new GM

The original caption on this photo was ‘Richmond Valley Council GM John Walker has resigned’. Photo Valley Watchdog

The Echo has been told that the new general manager is John Walker, who was once employed by the Richmond Valley Council before moving to Western Australia.

Walker became the centre of controversy at the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder Council when he was suspended early in 2021 amid allegations of workplace misconduct. He left later in the year with an undisclosed payout.

Questions for the Mayor?

The current Council has been in place for less than two months, so the obvious questions for the new Mayor Steve Krieg are:

How long does it take to decide to release a current GM?

How long does it take to start the process to employ a new GM?

Was the job advertised and was due process followed?

Cost to ratepayers

Lismore Council is in tight financial circumstances yet they gave 39 weeks severance pay to the previous GM, a payout thought to be worth more than $260,000 according to the ABC. Now 12 months later another 39-week payout for another no-fault termination. This has left some locals asking what will that do to very tight budgets, and where will this money come from?

The outgoing GM will have served Lismore for 364 days.

Next Tuesday’s ordinary meeting promises to be a fiery one at the Lismore Council chambers.

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  1. This is the same John Walker who was a staunch Coal Seam Gas and Metgasco supporter.
    Look out Lismore those gas leases have not been extinguished.

  2. Surely April Fool’s day has come early this year! ?
    Isn’t this the guy who was all gung-ho for Metgasco?
    Googling john+walker+football+richmond+valley+council certainly yields interesting results. He seems a ‘colourful’ character, which leads me to believe either the story is fake, or Mr. Krieg has indulged in massive over-reach.

  3. OMG Mr Krieg is a NAT I assume again in Independent clothing ?? A huge pay out of 39 weeks severance pay to the previous GM, a payout thought to be worth more than $260,000 is MORE than a handsome or deserving sum I believe. Lismore council did have a wonderful Mayor in Ms Ekins maybe too wonderful & Green for some. I’m not in Lismore Council so I’m guessing Ms Ekins didn’t stand again ( just got fed up) or maybe the former ?? So sad & shameful as our PLANET IS ON FIRE & HERE WE GO WITH THE DUNOON DAM ISSUE AGAIN OMG . The previous Council/ First NAtion’s citizens & many , many locals all were opposed to the dam (rightly so) ……how did we get here ???? Groundhog Day is a reality now in Lismore 🙁

    • No LIndy, Cr Elkins and her Green-Labor coterie are still mostly there…unfortunately for us Lismore City ratepayers.
      When in power for 20yrs they wasted $1M on such things as :- ‘The Rainbow Crossing’ (now obscured by tire-marks), an expensive ceramic pavement and graffiti laneway “art”.
      [Thankfully their similar plans to rainbow-brand our Ballina Street bridge and the Cedar Log were stopped.]

  4. All very odd Councillors. What is the problem?
    Michael Donnelly seems like a good Admin guy working quietly to get things done. I am sorry to see that so early in your tenure, you are throwing out good ideas and people.
    We would all appreciate an explanation of this matter.

  5. Last year, on June 25 in fact Mayor Vanessa Ekins said in the media that Mr Donnelly was the stand-out candidate for the job and the decision of Councillors was unanimous.
    She was referring to Michael Donnelly being chosen as Lismore Council General Manager.
    “Council has now officially made the offer to Michael and he will be officially appointed once the necessary recruitment process is complete,” she said.
    And now with a new mayor Steve Kreig, it seems Lismore Council is to get a new General Manager.

  6. Go the kreig team without doubt the best credentialed team in decades and now they’ve got Walker with a reputation for getting the financial job done,just hope it’s true.

      • Didn’t he leave Richmond valley council and Kalgoorlie council under a cloud? More payouts suggesting a not very good financial manager like the new mayor, who seems not to understand the difference between private enterprise and an organisation responsible for public money.

  7. This feels like a war! Like a coup! Like something really weird, and awful, anyway! Is any of this actually legal and what the f!!k are they up to???

    • Kreig was elected on a promise of change and that’s what’s happening and by the way that was with a record majority and yes it is legal.

      • Yes, completely legal. And also often very expensive for ratepayers. The potential new GM , like others before him, could end up costing us a bomb. He got an undisclosed payout from his last employer ,Kalgoolie-Boulder, after his contract was terminated, following allegations of workplace misconduct. It’s good to see his health has recovered.

  8. PS. Funnily enough, that photo of the possible new GM looks so much like the Mayor-character in the Ground Hog Day movie!!! 😀

  9. Sally, in answer to your question, it is legal. Under the standard contract for GM’s in NSW Local Government, they all have a clause that allows Councils to terminate the contract with a GM without having to prove any fault in their conduct. Personally, I hope that the new Mayor does not get the numbers he wants at the meeting. Having worked with him I know that Michael Donnelly is an excellent manager and a man of integrity. It would be a truly sad thing to see him go.

  10. I will have to totally agree with you there rod hair. Micheal Donnelly is an a hero to the lismore council and community and the infrastructure of roads to recovery has been an rewarding experience. To meet him personally his a hard working man. I know the community will be lost without him.

  11. 5 GM’s in 5 years & 5 significant payouts equals public wastage. That degree of public wastage is a public interest disclosure/matter & should be investigated perhaps by ICAC?

    Then the Echos three questions albeit: “
    “1.How long does it take to decide to release a current GM?
    2. How long does it take to start the process to employ a new GM?
    3. Was the job advertised and was due process followed? “
    On Monday Lismore councillors, as elected public officials, need to ask and seek evidence from the new Mayor re these questions. No doubt the new Mayor Mr Kreig would be able to formally address this and more, such as:
    1.who is or was on the selection panel?
    2. What other candidates nominated and their submissions;
    3. As a public employer, was the current GM given the grounds of dissatisfaction from council prior to being notified of his pending termination and replacement. After all the Lismore council will have to pay him out with public funds.

  12. Steve Kreig’s election motto was “we are the change”. Unfortunately. it now looks like it is distinctly a change for the worst. Slick political campaigns may be sufficient to win you office, but do not necessarily qualify you for it. If this is what we face, Administration may be our best hope.

  13. On Friday afternoon, council staff were a) refusing to confirm whether the Monday extraordinary council meeting was going ahead b) saying that no agenda had been released, despite a copy having reached the hands of the Lismore App, and c) declining to provide a timeframe for when such an agenda would be provided. This behaviour is unprecedented in my experience, very concerning, and a likely violation of the Local Government Act.

  14. Sounds like a good investment to me let’s hope he can bring LCC staffing levels back into line with the rest of Australia.Then have the funds to do the fundamentals that have been neglected for the last 15 years


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