• Who’s got your back?

    May 30, 2022 | by
    a capable reliable and loyal deputy read more

    One valuable lesson I learned very early in my executive career was that a capable, reliable and loyal deputy is indispensable. While you are busy focusing on the road ahead and attacking the myriad of problems at the pointy end, there must be someone you trust implicitly to maintain the cohesion and momentum of the rest of the team. As leader of course you cannot divest yourself of the overall responsibility for the direction and welfare of your team, but knowing there is a reliable and capable 2-i-C is important not only to you but the other team members as well.

    The crucial role of the deputy leader is often unheralded but their contribution to the success of any venture or organisation should be recognised and celebrated. Although more often than not the role of the deputy is overshadowed by the high profile of a more prominent leader, the rest of the team will be grateful for their guidance and support.

    In a recent article by Brad Borkan who is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and author of books about polar explorers, he comments on the extraordinary achievements of such deputies as Frank Wild, second in command to Earnest Shackleton on the fateful Endurance expedition. In the featured image Shackleton is on the left with Wild next to him. It was in fact Wild who stayed with the 21 crew on the desolate Elephant Island for four and a half months while Shackleton and others went for help. As Borkan points out “Remarkably, all the men on Elephant Island lived because Frank Wild bonded them as a team”. Although the deputy has to be able to assume the role of the leader when the leader is absent, they retain their own personae and therefore must have innate leadership qualities in their own right. Borkan also references the ill-fated Scott Antarctic expedition which I too used to exemplify leadership traits in an earlier Blog post called “Leadership frozen in time“.

    Rarely will our contemporary deputies be placed in circumstances of their teams facing life and death situations, except in extreme industries perhaps like underground mining or deep sea oil drilling. Nevertheless, there are some very real instances where good second line leadership is necessary to ensure success or avoid failure.

    In some situations formal lines of authority give way to de facto deputies who are recognised by the team for their abilities and are looked to in times of uncertainty for interpretation of the leader’s vision. These people usually have a good appreciation of the individuals within the team and the team dynamics that unfold in challenging situations. They tend to be able to manage internal rivalries and balance the strengths and weaknesses within the team by their diplomacy and affinity with the group.

    In any event, every leader needs to acknowledge their reliance on a good deputy and should ensure their management of that person reflects appropriate appreciation.

    How well do you appreciate the leadership qualities of your deputy? How much time do you invest in developing those qualities in your deputy and in letting them shine? How often do you commend and support them in the presence of other team members to show your confidence in them?

    How often do you just say “Thank you for being there.”?


  • “Dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria!”

    December 22, 2021 | by
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    This is a memorable quote from Bill Murray’s character in the original Ghostbusters movie to describe a pending disaster of biblical proportions. For some Queensland local governments, it is the growing number of dogs and cats living at their animal pounds that represents impending doom… for those pets. Of all the many and varied functions of local government animal management is often the most difficult and conflict ridden. Council employees engaged in this area often find it stressful and depressing. Yet it is a significantly important role.

    Many of these employees come to the role out of fondness for animals but are frequently discouraged by the darker side of the function, and its necessity to dispose of dogs and cats in quite high numbers because of the neglect of their owners. The rate of euthanasia of these former pets is often controversial in communities and is unquestionably distressing to the staff and their supporting vets who must administer the euphemistically described “putting down” of perhaps hundreds of animals each year.

    A recent survey of Queensland local governments in the level 4 and 5 categories i.e. generally regional urban centres, revealed the following statistics.

    In the 2020/21 financial year, the eight councils surveyed impounded a total of 5,571 dogs and 6,537 cats. For dogs this represented about 3.5% of the total dogs registered across those areas. Of the dogs impounded about 60% were released back to the owners, about 30% were found new homes and 10% had to be euthanised. Of the cats impounded, only about 17% were reunited with their owners, largely because of the absence of registration programs or failure of owners to microchip or otherwise identity tag their pets. About 60% of the impounded cats were found new homes and about 23% were euthanised. In extreme cases where some councils were facing particular challenges the following data was reflected:

    • highest rate of dog euthanasia = 19% of impounded animals
    • highest rate of cat euthanasia = 43% of impounded animals

    An additional influence on the high rate of cat euthanasia is their susceptibility to disease, such as Cat Flu, whilst being held in large numbers.

    All of the councils surveyed made valiant attempts to rehome impounded animals and decisions leading to euthanasia tended to be based on the animal’s poor health, aggressive temperament or other unsuitability as a companion animal.

    Typically, those working in local government pound facilities are animal lovers and councils aim to provide safe and caring custody for the animals they impound. Working with animal welfare groups in these regions the local governments recognise that a critical strategy to reduce these statistics is the effort that must made to educate the community in a responsible pet ownership and much time and energy is dedicated to this end.

    Nevertheless, it is the individual pet owner who must accept responsibility for the eventual fate of their companion animal.

    So, when you or any of your family or acquaintances are considering acquiring a cute puppy or kitten this Christmas, spare a thought for the future of the animal and the obligation of its owner to attend to its appropriate care.

  • Good Practice for Local Government Audit Committees – by Graham Webb PSM

    August 13, 2021 | by
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    [Throughout his Local and State Government career and more recent consulting experience, Graham Webb PSM, has served on several Local Government Audit Committees and currently Chairs the Central Highlands Audit Committee and Whitsunday Regional Council Audit and Risk Committee. In this article Graham shares his experience and a few thoughts/observations about practices that contribute to better performing Audit Committees.]

    Having several decades exposure to local government audit and risk management committees both from the perspective of an officer reporting to Committees and as a member and Chair of Committees, I feel I can offer a few helpful tips to those following along that path, particularly on creating high performance in the functioning of Local Government Audit Committees. 

    The Foundations

    As well as being closely familiar with the relevant legislation governing the conduct of Audit Committees, members should be guided by the values and principles contained in their Audit Committee Charter. A review of the Charter from time to time by the Committee provides a salutary refresher of the foundations of accountability required during the Committee’s deliberations.

    A clear and transparent commitment to impartiality, objectivity, thoroughness of enquiry and diligent preparation will also provide a solid base for the Committee’s work

    What makes effective Audit Committees?

    In my experience some key measures of the effectiveness of a well-functioning Audit Committee include:

    • Timely preparation and distribution of the Committee Agenda. In order for the Chair and members to diligently consider the matters coming before them, adequate notice must be given to enable them to read, understand and digest the various reports contained in the business paper.
    • Well constructed and articulate reports on matters relevant to the agenda, which reveal both accurate and adequate information enabling full disclosure.
    • Inclusion in the Agenda of a range of topics sufficient to provide a well-rounded appreciation of the scope of the local government’s responsibilities, and not just confined to financial data.
    • At the meeting, full and robust discussion of the agenda items demonstrating that the members are well prepared, ask searching questions and are competent to express learned opinions on issues identified.
    • The willingness of the members to question the information coming before them and the responsiveness of the officers in providing open and honest reports and clarification of issues.

    The scope of agenda topics should be expansive and not confined to the traditional paths of accounting compliance and fraud prevention. The capacity of the Committee to enquire into a whole range of topics, particularly to identify and understand emerging issues and risks is its most valuable asset. Audit Committees are now embracing Risk Management and its key areas like:

    • Risk framework shortcoming;
    • Insurance cover and claims management;
    • Legal actions and appeals;
    • Information systems upgrades and cyber security issues
    • Business Continuity Plans;
    • Disaster Management Plans.

    And of course, Audit and Risk Committees must never lessen their focus on workplace health and safety monitoring.

    Committee Members responsibilities

    Committee members themselves need to continually evaluate their own performance to ensure ongoing diligence and independence. This means always being prepared to be inquisitive and ask probing questions, not being satisfied with superficial reporting or explanations. The great regret of any Audit Committee Chair or member should be having remained silent when they should have spoken up.

    The realm of audit and risk management is ever expanding and Committee members must continually look for opportunities to learn more about their craft. Obviously, the Queensland Audit Office is a fundamental stakeholder in the field and source of instructive intelligence. Issues raised in QAO annual reports to Parliament, QAO Blog postings and circulars often prompt ideas about possible gaps or weaknesses in your own environment.

    Audit and Risk Committees also have much to learn from one another, and a strong network of Committee Chairs and members can be invaluable in knowledge sharing and benchmarking.  

    Finally, the issue of term of office is one not always considered by Audit and Risk Committees, yet it is important. Refreshing the membership of Committees from time to time enables not only continued visible independence but the application of fresh insights and ideas.

    Strong leadership by the Chair will encourage a professional focus on the matters discussed above and thereby produce a highly effective Audit and Risk Management oversight.

  • Council Decision Making

    October 15, 2020 | by
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    The 2020 local government elections saw the continuing trend of a significant turnover of elected members both at Mayor and Councillor level. (See our previous post on the election outcomes). For many first time councillors this presents a steep learning curve of new and sometimes confusing information about council decision-making processes. This can lead to tension and even friction between new councillors and the Council’s organisation while they assimilate to the unfamiliar environment.

    Induction training is necessarily brief and is not always fully absorbed in the first pass. Practical experience participating in the decision framework is the only way to fully appreciate the many nuances that can arise…and the various pitfalls that can cause unnecessary frustration and conflict. The legislative underpinning and the Policies and Procedures of Council and Committee meetings can be somewhat daunting to those not experienced in the dynamics of formal meeting structures. New councillors often feel at a disadvantage in these circumstances and are vulnerable to making procedural errors. Mentoring and support by both experienced councillors and senior management can help in this respect.

    The Leaders of local government organisations can do much to ensure the development of good decision-making practice during the early period of a new Council, by revisiting a simple checklist.

    • Has the Councillor induction training included the key topic of what makes for good decision making?
    • Do Councillors have access to quality and professional advice about their role in decision making?
    • Do the reports coming before the Council contain accurate, timely and meaningful information, which includes a clear definition of the issue to be addressed and well developed explanations of input/outcome relationships, options available, relative consequences and how success will be measured?
    • Have all legislative and policy implications been addressed?
    • Have all appropriate consultation opportunities been explored?
    • Have all risks been evaluated and mitigated?
    • Are Councillors provided with adequate opportunity to absorb the information provided and to discuss and clarify their understanding of it, in a non-adversarial format before being required to actively debate the issue in public?
    • Is the formal decision-making forum (the Council meeting) well Chaired to ensure efficient and thorough debate of the matters on the Agenda, with appropriate transparency and accountability in line with the Local Government principles?
    Council decision making


    This is not an exhaustive checklist but provides the central questions that will assist in evaluating the fundamentals of good practice decision-making for new Councils.

    If you need help in improving your decision-making framework, call in Reinforcements.

  • Advocating for Local Communities

    October 15, 2020 | by
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    Advocating for local communities is an important part of the role of local government. Regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming State election, local governments will still need to provide strong advocacy for their communities, in the constant competition for funding and government support. Councils need to develop a focused and effective strategy to guide their advocacy efforts. The key objectives of being heard and influencing government policy decisions are only achieved by good planning and active promotion.

    There are some useful tips to help this along.

    An effective Advocacy program contains a number of elements:

    • Willingness of the Council to make the hard decisions to demonstrate that it is doing its part to manage the challenges facing their communities and not just looking to other levels of Government to bail them out.
    • Clear and consistent communication to and with the other players (the Council’s Organisation, the Community and Government) to create and maintain a common and well defined message about the Council’s goals and its preparedness to do the hard yards required to achieve those goals. Importantly the communication model should be two-way so that Council effectively listens to its Community and understands the Government’s position, in developing its Advocacy strategy.
    • Being flexible enough to embrace alternative solutions if the original proposition proves impractical.
    • Actively advocating at every opportunity, in all areas and to all relevant sectors to promote the message and to seek partners and co-advocates in the cause. This often means ensuring that ALL Stakeholders have been identified. (See our recent Thinking about Stakeholder Engagement post).
    • A strong supportive role by the Council’s organisation in the form of research, data and business case development to underpin the advocacy strategy, as well as in appropriate contexts leveraging professional networks. The organisation also has its own avenues of communication with the Community through customer service activities and with Government in daily interaction with Departmental/agency contacts.
    • Enlisting the support of the Community whose role is to seek to understand the issues the Council is facing and the objectives of its Advocacy; and wherever possible and practical get involved and support the Council by its own advocacy to Government by representation to local MPs.
    Advocating for local communities


    Importantly the Advocacy Strategy should be seen as an integral part of the local government’s strategic planning process. If you need help in developing your Advocacy Strategy, call in Reinforcements.

  • More Women Councillors in Queensland

    August 19, 2020 | by
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    Women Councillors increase representation in the March 2020 Queensland local government elections
    – by Graham Webb PSM

    (Feature Image courtesy ABC News: Christopher Gillette)

    It is now four months since the polls were declared and the ECQ published the results of Local Government Elections held on Saturday 28th March 2020. Individual councils will be well aware of the results that affected them and their neighbouring local governments, but what has been the overall effect across the State? One aspect is that there are now more women councillors in Queensland.

    Elections were held in all seventy-seven local government areas for 2020. The majority of Local Governments (70%) conducted their elections on a undivided basis with 23 conducting their elections on a divisional basis. Sixteen councils held Full Postal Ballots and three held postal ballots for parts of their areas.

    Two clear results indicate a continuing high turnover in elected members and an increasing representation of women in the ranks of both Mayors and Councillors.

    Mayoral Elections

      Of the sitting Mayors 40 (52%), including 10 women, were returned. This compared with 36 including 6 women returned at the 2016 Elections. An increased number of these sitting Mayors (12 men and 3 women) did not face election and were returned unopposed compared with eight (7 males and 1 female) at the 2016 Elections.   

      More women councillors in Queensland

      Mayor Elvie Sandow

      New Mayors accounted for the 48% turnover, comprising 26 Men and 11 women. Although this was slightly down on the 53% of new Mayors, elected at the 2016 Elections the proportion of women increased slightly from 13% to 16%. Eight sitting Councillors threw their hats in the ring for the Mayoralty and were elected as Mayors. This compared with 15 challenging Councillors at the 2016 Local Government Elections. The turnover in Indigenous Council Mayors was 76% (9 men and 4 women).

      Women Mayoral candidates enjoyed increased electoral success at the 2020 Local Governments compared to 2016. The gender balance for Mayors across the 77 local governments in the state now shows men 73% and women 27%  – an increase of around 6% for women compared to the outcome of the 2016 Elections.

      In another milestone, Cherbourg Aboriginal Council elected its first female Mayor.

      This demonstrates that Women Mayoral candidates continue to gain increasing public support at Queensland Local Government Elections.

      Councillor Elections

        The Turnover of new Councillors represented 54% with new councillors comprising 154 men and 115 women, compared with a 50% turnover rate for the 2016 Elections. As with the Mayoral elections, women candidates enjoyed greater success, improving their numbers from 165 elected in 2016 to 189 in 2020.

        Of the 499 available councilor positions, the gender balance of elected members in councils for the current term has improved slightly with men 62% and women 38%. This is a 5% increase on the proportion of women councillors elected in 2016.

        Turnover trend to stay?

        Four years ago, when commenting on the 2016 Local Government Election results the Local Government Association announced that:

         “A new norm appears to have been established with an average councillor turnover rate (50%) resulting in a significant loss of “corporate knowledge” from the ranks of councillors.”

        This assessment was confirmed by both Mayoral and Councillor results at the 2020 elections with turnover of 48% in the Mayoral race and 54% for Councillors.

        Existing and newly elected women Mayors and Councillors are enjoying improved success across all six Local Government categories, evidenced by 21 women as Mayors compared with 16 in 2016, an increase of 30%. There are also 189 women in councillor roles compared with 165 following the 2016 elections. This is an increase of 15%.


        {NOTE: For readers with a statistical bent and an interest in the overall complexion of changes across the state arising from the March elections Graham has prepared a comprehensive report which can be downloaded HERE}

        Analysis of 2020 LG Elections Qld – G Webb PSM.



      • Workplace Investigation Pitfalls

        August 19, 2020 | by
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        [Introduction: The current COVID – 19 pandemic has produced an interesting side-effect for some organisations. The significant proportion of employees working from home has, at least anecdotally, reduced the incidence of workplace misconduct and interpersonal conflict normally the subject of investigation. With time now to reflect on how well workplace investigations are done, the following article by Judith Himstedt is pertinent – Gary Kellar]


         by  Judith Himstedt   (Master of Public Sector Management , Double-major in Public Policy and Industrial Relations/Human Resource Management,  Bachelor of Commerce- Double-major in Industrial Relations and Human Resource Management)

        There are many issues within a workplace which give rise to the need for some form of investigation.  These range from informal complaints of staff not getting on with each other, through to bullying complaints, allegations of misconduct, complaints about administrative actions and claims of behaviour which potentially breaches the organisation’s Code of Conduct. All of these need some level of investigation and it is tempting to immediately refer the matter to the Human Resources (HR) Team or an internal investigation team and await an outcome.  Sometimes however, conducting a workplace investigation internally is not the best way and this article will discuss some factors and pitfalls managers should consider before just sending off the complaint to HR.

        The proper role of an HR Team is to manage, guide and lead the human capital of the organisation without favour or prejudice.  Expecting the HR Team to take on a workplace investigation which will involve colleagues or staff they regularly interact with can itself cause conflict as established relationships and loyalties are tested.  Also, managers are entitled to expect frank and unprejudiced advice from HR, so tasking them to undertake an internal workplace investigation can often place them in a difficult situation, especially where they may have some close daily working relationship with the subject of the allegations.

        In some cases, HR Teams are unsure of how to proceed with a workplace investigation when it appears to move beyond the original Terms of Reference or Document of Allegations.  Often investigating something that seems straight-forward can unearth neglect, failure or inaction or even conspiracies to engage in misconduct (or fail to prevent such conduct).   If any evidence of possible corrupt conduct arises, the HR Team may not be best placed to deal with such grave matters and an employer may then have to reassign the investigation externally.  A significant issue then is that many witnesses might have already given statements, other people may have discussed the matter and there is potential for truth and facts to have been contaminated. 

        Judith Himstedt

        In my experience, internal investigations by inexperienced staff often face the increased risk of being flawed due to a lack of understanding of the basic principles of procedural fairness and natural justice.   One important natural justice principle is that complaints are dealt with in a timely manner and without excessive delay which can be prejudicial.

        Another important aspect is the avoidance of bias – both actual bias or the perception of bias.  A particular pitfall to consider in internal investigations is that teams can find it difficult to be impartial because they are reluctant to call out dishonest or reckless conduct, particularly by senior staff or influential employees, because of fears for their own job security and wellbeing.



        Another pitfall in investigations is the investigator not perceiving the difference between direct evidence, circumstantial evidence and indirect evidence.  All evidence is important but understanding what weight can be given to certain types of evidence and what reliance can be placed on the particulars of oral, documentary, or technical evidence is critical in leading the investigator to a defensible and fair outcome.  Rules of evidence and standards of proof must be beyond reproach, so that if a matter ends up in a court of law or a tribunal, the investigation report will be sustainable and defensible.  If a case is to be determined on the balance of probabilities, the evidence must demonstrate that it was more probable that not that the allegations are true.

        One particular pitfall for inexperienced investigators is that they inadvertently fail to protect the evidence that is presented.  This can especially be the case where digital evidence is used and care is not taken to preserve an audit trail relating to the gathering of the evidence.  Documents, invoices, emails and other electronic material must be collected and researched carefully as must witness statements, photographs, medical certificates and so on.

        A further challenge for internal investigation teams, whether HR or not, is in assigning appropriate disciplinary recommendations according to the severity of any proven allegations.  As an example, a recommendation to dismiss an employee who has beenWorkplace Investigation found to have committed the allegation might be an overreach.  A recommendation to dismiss must be weighed up against the factors the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission will consider if the employee lodges an Unfair Dismissal Claim.  Was the dismissal for a valid reason?  Was it fair and just?  Was the outcome harsh given all other circumstances? Did the employee have an opportunity to respond adequately to the allegations?  Also important is considering if the employee knew at the time the investigation began that an adverse finding could possibly result in the termination of employment.

        Another pitfall arises from the above – not all allegations made must be proven for there to be a finding of bullying or behaviour that has breached the Code of Conduct.  Some allegations may not be able to be substantiated and a competent investigator will be able explain why some claims in a complaint are upheld while others are not.

        Avoiding the pitfalls and internal issues that can arise in undertaking investigations in-house, and thus protect the integrity of the process, is critical. The three key strategies available in this respect are :

        1. Invest heavily in the training of in-house investigation staff, and risk assess each investigation assignment to determine the capacity of staff to conduct the investigation professionally and dispassionately;
        2. Retain experienced and readily accessible external independent investigation consultants to undertake assignments where the risk assessed in 1. above deems outsourcing to be the best option.
        3. Be alert to the option of using experienced external investigation consultants to peer review the outcomes of in-house investigations where the consequences of erroneous findings or recommendations are likely to be serious.

        If you need help with any of your workplace investigation matters – call in Reinforcements

      • Stop and Think

        August 19, 2020 | by
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        As I passed the local Municipal library the other day, I noticed it was particularly busy with people coming and going. Displayed prominently outside the entrance was a sign that said, “Stop and Think.” It was a notice warning visitors not to enter if they had COVID-like symptoms. From my short period of observation I did not see any person actually stop and think about the information contained in the notice. Indeed, most people just rushed past without giving it any attention. Now, many of these people might be regulars and see the sign every day or so at and have become desensitised to it.

        Our daily life is like this in so many respects. Even import messages become invisible as we succumb to the frenetic pace of living – even in our COVID constrained communities. For many of us it is a matter of operating on autopilot for much of the day. Our reflexes rather than considered decisions determine our actions. Yet this unconscious behaviour encourages lack of concentration, resulting in our overlooking important details, causing us to have accidents and in some cases, placing ourselves in physical danger. I remember when beginning to travel overseas, being told to be constantly aware of my surroundings and to be alert to the movement of people, animals and vehicles. It was an important strategy, I was told, in avoiding getting lost, run over or pick-pocketed.

        In modern parlance this might be called mindfulness – often described as the practice of paying attention in the present moment through the deliberate observation of one’s own thoughts, emotions and body state. In simple terms that means wherever you are and whatever you are doing, take time to stop and think about what it is you are doing and what direction that is taking you. It is very easy to let the mind wander across all those concerns of daily life, especially under current circumstances and to allow our thinking to drift away from its proper course. It’s not a big deal, it happens to us all. Here are some useful tips available to help focus daily behaviours on a more mindful approach. https://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/ 

        When next you pass the “Stop and Think” sign, stop and think about it.

        Stop and Think
      • Who’s Watching?

        August 19, 2020 | by
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        A Mayor once told me that “Public Life is like being on a nudist beach. No matter how proud you are of your own image, a part of you is always asking ‘who’s watching?’”. Recent controversy over legislation proposed by the Queensland Government to prevent the media from giving exposure to allegations of corruption during election campaigns, raises again the issue of public scrutiny of elected officials and candidates for public office.

        Communities today have higher expectations of public officials and are continually vigilant and ready to criticise lapses in professional, political or personal performance. The daily spotlight on the Prime Minister and Premiers in dealing with the current COVID -19 emergency is clear evidence of the interest taken by the general populace in matters affecting them.  The avenues for such scrutiny are not confined to the printed and electronic media, or indeed the formal oversight agencies like the Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC). For local government, the range of means by which the actions, words and behaviours of Mayors and Councillors are monitored, assessed and responded to is extensive and varied.

        Communities expect that their elected representatives have been trained and are knowledgeable about codes of conduct, financial accountability, integrity in decision-making and avoidance of corruption. This understanding leads to an expectation of compliance – but at the same time a cynicism that constant oversight is required due to a lack of confidence that the expectation will be met.

        Legislative overwatch

        The framework of Parliamentary Acts, ordinances and regulatory agencies with responsibility to monitor and review the conduct of public officials, including councils, is wide and growing.

        • The CCC’s interest is in the prevention and punishment of corrupt conduct.
        • The Office of the Independent Assessor provides opportunity for individuals to report and find recourse in matters of misconduct and inappropriate behaviour of councillors.
        • The Queensland Ombudsman deals with complaints about administrative decisions and more recently has oversight of the Public Interest Disclosure legislation.
        • The Minister for local government and the Department have intervention powers when failure of good governance is observed

        Local surveillance

        Community organisations, business associations and interest groups are a growing voices within local communities, with more and more active evaluation and criticism of public officials happening through the power of social media

        Who's watching

        Who’s Watching?

        Behaviour and conduct in the workplace, in the community, and in public or in private is now not able to be cloaked or hidden as once it was. Employees are now empowered to report behaviour bullying, harassment and misconduct, including by public officials. Whistle Blowers are encouraged to come forward and offered protection from reprisal.

        The ubiquitousness of security cameras provides a vehicle which is ever ready to record actions and, in some cases, conversations to provide evidence of wrongdoing when required.

        Act with integrity and ignore the watchers

        The outcome is that public officials, elected or appointed, must be eternally vigilant to maintain high levels of conduct and dedication to duty – not only actual but perceived.

        The prospect of getting away with minor misdemeanours in public life today is reducing rapidly and public officials need to be self-aware on a continual basis of their own behaviours and the surroundings in which they find themselves. Even seemingly innocuous actions and words can often be twisted and misconstrued by on-lookers resulting in unnecessary embarrassment and controversy.

        The risks are high and not confined to criminal legislative sanctions but include reputational damage that in the extreme can put an end to a promising public career.

        Who's watching?Anyone deciding to launch on a career in politics or local representation must be focused on establishing a clear personal strategy to avoid any conduct likely to attract unfavourable attention, because the watchers are many and everywhere. Many are not reluctant to circulate reports of what they have seen and heard…and not always accurately or in context. Do you know who’s watching?


        Need advice on integrity matters – call in Reinforcements

      • The Facts of Life for Local Government Executives – by Gary Kellar

        May 4, 2020 | by
        The Facts of Life read more

        One of the principal facts of life for local government executives, especially at the start of the second decade of the 21st century is that there is no longer a concept of permanent employment – if there ever was. Some might say that until the last decade of the previous century there was still a semblance of separation of local government administration as an impartial discipline, from the elected council as a policy-based forum. Today however the elected forum is much closer to the body politic we see at state and federal level where the lines between politics and administration are considerably blurred. The number of CEOs leaving or being “separated” from their jobs following quadrennial elections reflects that change.

        For local government CEOs, the practical horizon of their employment term is not that stated in their employment contract but the term of the electoral cycle. One arguable fact of life is that by exercising traditional loyalty and support to one’s incumbent Mayor and Council, regardless of how well balanced, professional and impartial that advice might be, there is a possibility that a newly elected Mayor or Council will see it as partisan support for a political opponent and seek to remove the CEO as not sufficiently aligned to the new direction.

        A converse is that adherence to a frank and fearless approach in giving advice can also raise the ire of both a returned Mayor/Council or a newly elected one, resulting in another cause to initiate change of administrative leadership. In the latter case I previously canvassed the notion of frank and fearless advice before the last election. SEE Here . http://www.reinforcements.com.au/frank-fearless-advice-thing-past/

        Let me stress that incompetence or poor performance are quite different matters and should be dealt with decisively, regardless of the electoral cycle. (see an earlier article on performance management http://www.reinforcements.com.au/why-dont-performance-systems-work/)

        The Facts of Life in Practice

        The principal fact of life is that the Council and its CEO must work closely together with absolute trust or the very process of local government is in jeopardy. Some important elements need to be in place if the relationship is to succeed:

        • Real and demonstrated mutual respect that is evident to the organisation and the community;
        • Demonstrated commmitment to the Values and Code of Conduct adopted for the organsation – by both councillors and officers;
        • Documented and well understood terms of engagement between elected members and officers, that are observed in practice;
        • A structured and meaningful performance review system based on honest and forthright discussion; and
        • Full and open disclosure of any matters likely to cause problems with the relationship.


        Notwithstanding the legal technicalities of employment contracts,  (and clearly there are legally enforceable rights exercisable by both parties) if the relationship is not going to work there is little point in trying to force its continuance. Consequently, at the end or the beginning of each election term a local government CEO must face up to the facts of life for their profession and whilst hoping for the best, prepare for the worst. An experienced and self-aware CEO will have a firm appreciation of prevailing circumstances in order to judge the likelihood of one outcome against the other. However, local government elections are like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never know what you are going to get. Of course, the fervent hope is always that a newly elected Mayor/ Council find common ground with the CEO from the start and a good working relationship prospers.

        In the unfortunate  event that different circumstances prevail, the first approach should always be to seek reconcilation and confirmation of a willingness to respect each party’s role and to work collaboratively for the benefit of the community. However when the writing is on the wall it is important to prepare in a way that provides the best opportunity for a dignified separation, based on an effective career continuity or transition plan.

        Through our many network contacts. Reinforcements can assist Mayors and CEOs mend or end their relationship and in making decisions about the next steps in either case.


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