It’s official – Lismore City Council has a new General Manager – again.
On Monday evening Lismore City Councillors attended a Confidential Session to vote on terminating the current General Manager Michael Donnelly and placing controversial personality John Walker in the position.
After the meeting, Council announced that the vote had resolved the motion, 6:4, to appoint John Walker in the role of Interim General Manager for 12 months, during which time a recruitment process will be undertaken to permanently fill the position.
Following the vote a rescission motion was lodged by three Councillors, meaning that Mr Walker was unable to start as planned on Tuesday.
Look over there
On Tuesday Council held its Ordinary Meeting as planned, with the huge look-over-there distraction of close to 500 people gathering to let it be known that the Sleeping Lizard handback must go ahead. Regarding that issue, after much discussion, an amendment to workshop what was already in place was voted upon and passed – unanimously.
As the minutes dragged into hours, those with the energy stayed awake to see the outcome of Monday’s rescission, with the meeting going into another Confidential Session. Mayor Steve Krieg ask Councillors if they wanted to address the gallery to speak against the meeting going into Confidential.
Councillor Adam Guise accepted the offer:
We know why we’re here
‘I made my reasons quite clear last time (Monday),’ said Cr Guise. ‘We know why we’re going into confidential. We tried dealing with this last night and here we are again. It’s quite clear what this is about. It’s about terminating the current GM and appointing John Walker to be the GM.
‘I’ve made my views very well known,’ said Cr Guise.
‘John Walker headed up Richmond Valley Council when they were rolling coal seam gas out against the Northern Rivers.
‘We’ve got a council electorate here that voted 87 per cent “no” to coal seam gas. So I don’t propose this as a good fit for the organisation.
‘This will bring risk to the organisation, financial and politically. I don’t think we should be doing this behind closed doors. We should be actually engaging with our community about what they want to see on Council and genuinely taking into account our financial situation rather than going down this path.’
The chamber then voted on going into Confidential with Councillors Colby, Hall, Jensen, Rob, Gordon, Bing and Craig for and Councillors, Ekins, Guise, Bird and Cook against.
In the Confidential Session, the rescission motion lost and Lismore City Councillors voted to terminate the employment contract of its General Manager Michael Donnelly under a no-fault clause, effective immediately.
Mayor Steve Krieg said John Walker is a ‘change agent’ and well-credentialed, with a very strong background in leading local government organisations and businesses.
A Lismore Council press release said that Mr Walker was previously the Chief Executive of Richmond Valley Council where, within four years, he turned around its financial position and changed its approach toward business and economic growth.
After leaving the Northern Rivers to be closer to his family in Western Australia, Mr Walker was appointed as the Chief Executive of the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder.
The release went on to say that Mr Donnelly was appointed as interim General Manager in February 2021 after the then Council terminated the employment of its previously appointed General Manager.
At the time, then newly elected Mayor Vanessa Ekins said Council decided to appoint him for 12 months ‘because it is important that whoever the new Councillors are after the September elections, that they get to decide their priorities and attributes they want in a General Manager’.