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General Manager Appointment

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The Huon Valley Council undertook steps to find its new General Manager when Mr Emilio Reale resigned in March this year. Mr Reale had spent four years in the role.

In order to find the best candidate for the position a national recruitment process was initiated. Business consulting firm Red Giant was appointed to assist the Council with the recruitment.

The extensive and highly competitive recruitment process attracted 85 applications with 47 assessed by Red Giant as meeting the advertised selection criteria. Following further assessment, 14 candidates were identified for initial screening by the General Manager Recruitment Panel. This Panel was made up of the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and two Councillors.

Council appointed the Panel to seek and recommend the best candidate for the position. To ensure Council identified the best candidate the Panel took the appropriate steps and undertook the recruitment assessment process to evaluate all candidates thoroughly. This was critical to ensure the appointment of a General Manager that would meet the challenges of a Council that is seeing significant change and growth.

The Panel reviewed the applications of the 14 candidates and subsequently determined to interview 6 people. At the conclusion of the interviews three candidates were shortlisted and were interviewed by the full Council at the end of July.

All nine Huon Valley Councillors actively participated in the interview of the three final candidates.

The final appointment was made during Closed Council on 25th August and contractual arrangements were discussed and finalised over the coming days.

At a Special Council meeting of 15 September 2021, the Huon Valley Council confirmed the appointment of Mr Jason Browne as its new General Manager. Mr Browne has been appointed for a contract period of 5 years and will receive a commencing remuneration package of $246,175, including a cash component of $200,000.

An independent review of the recruitment process was commissioned on 25 August. The review findings were discussed at the meeting on 15 September (the key findings can be found under the heading below, Independent review of the General Manager recruitment process).

Mayor Enders stated that the Council at the Special Meeting reaffirmed confidence in the appointment of Mr Browne.

 

Introduction to General Manager: Jason Browne

Mr Jason Browne is an experienced senior manager with demonstrated success in improved performance through the creation of focused strategies, customer engagement, refined investment decisions, cost control, staff engagement, process improvement, and leveraging competitive advantage.

Mr Browne has performed several roles at TasWater during the last five years. As Department Manager Business Performance he was responsible for leading the corporate strategy, business performance and innovation. He also benefited from acting in the role of Chief Financial Officer leading over 170 employees that work across multiple services and he worked as Senior Leader in Strategy and Finance. In this role he worked closely with the executive management on improving performance through leadership of a focused strategy, short and longer term, establishing an innovation and improvement mindset, and reporting progress to owners and key stakeholders. TasWater has a turnover in excess of $330 million, approximately 900 staff delivering water and sewerage services statewide.

Prior to TasWater, he held the position of Executive Manager Finance and Business Services (CFO) for the Glenorchy City Council. He has also held positions in the energy, banking and private sectors.

Strong communication and collaboration skills has allowed Mr Browne to build strong relationships with board members, colleagues, customers, suppliers, regulators and other key stakeholders. These relationships have resulted in superior key performance indicator results.

Mr Browne is a highly motivated professional with a strong community focus demonstrated by engagement with CPA Australia and not for profit board roles in the disability and sports sectors.

He holds numerous qualifications. He has a Master of Business Administration (Major in Human Resources), a Graduate Diploma in Applied Finance and Investment (Major in Corporate Finance) and Bachelor of Economics (Majors in Accounting and Finance). He is a Certified Practicing Accountant and has undertaken contemporary leadership courses throughout his career.

Mr Browne joined the Huon Valley Council on 21 September 2021.

 

 

Independent review of the General Manager recruitment process

The Huon Valley Council commissioned an independent review of the recruitment process due to concerns raised about the robustness of the GM recruitment process.

The review has been completed. After considering privacy and confidentiality issues, Council agreed at its Ordinary Council Meeting on 29 September to release a redacted version of the key findings of the Review of the Recruitment Process for the New General Manager Appointment Report.

Due to confidentiality and privacy obligations, as well as potential defamation, Council is unable to release the full report.

The review found there were no breaches of the Council’s Code of Conduct, the Local Government Act or the Huon Valley Council Governance Framework, and equally as important, no evidence the recruitment was tainted by actual bias.

However, the review did find Council’s management of the recruitment process fell below expected standards for the management of conflicts.

The Council has agreed to the report’s recommendations that it implement a guideline or supporting document to the Code of Conduct as a best practice approach to managing conflicts of interest in recruitment, and further, that Councillors undertake training in relation to managing conflicts of interest.

Council has already started the process by seeking a proposal to meet their commitment to signing off on the recommendations.

Once established the new guidelines will be used as a tool for recruitment and other situations particularly where panels or committees are used for decision making on behalf of Council.

Councillors also agreed to undertake training in relation to the set up and best use of panels and committees to maximise efficient and effective decision making. Key areas of focus will be:

  1. the function and scope of a panel or committee and when it is appropriate to report back to the full Council for further guidance including how to progress in circumstances where a consensus is unable to be reached;
  2. how to engage in robust but respectful discussion;
  3. the importance of note taking as well as discretion throughout the conduct of the process; and
  4. how to give adequate reasons in making decisions.

The following is the redacted version of the Key Findings of the Review of the Recruitment Process for the New General Manager Appointment Report:

  1. That Council being aware of public interest in the circumstances of the appointment of its new General Manager and having taken the step of commissioning a thorough independent review of the appointment process, considers that it is appropriate in the interests of informing the public as to the outcome of that review that it formally accept and adopts the following summary of the key findings of that review. Namely that:
    • On 6 May 2021, a potential conflict of interest came into existence.
    • Ideally, the recruitment agency engaged by the Council (‘the recruitment agency’) should have disclosed the potential conflict to Council’s Recruitment Panel.
    • On 24 May 2021, there was an actual conflict.
    • The failure to disclose the conflict (to the Council) until 4 July 2021 was not a disclosure ‘as soon as practicable’ and in breach of the Conflict of Interest Policy of the recruitment agency.
    • The recruitment agency in good faith disclosed the conflict as soon as (it) considered it appropriate to do so.
    • The responsibility to appropriately manage the conflict ultimately lies with Council and not Ms Inches the recruitment agency.
    • The recruitment agency assiduously restricted her involvement in the recruitment process to follow the control measures (proposed by the recruitment agency). In the circumstances there was no actual bias or undue influence in the recruitment process as a consequence of the late disclosure.
    • Council’s appointment of the recruitment agency, a reputable and highly credentialed executive recruitment agency in Tasmania, was appropriate in the circumstances.
    • Council’s Recruitment Panel should have referred the conflict back to the full Council to resolve how to manage it when meeting on 5 July 2021 to, among other things, discuss the conflict which was notified to them on 4 July 2021. The late disclosure by the recruitment agency would have made it undesirable to remove the recruitment agency from the process at a late stage. The Recruitment Panel was confident in being able to select for themselves a short list but was unaware as to how to properly manage such a conflict.
    • The full Council did not properly consider the adequacy of the management of the conflict of interest until its ordinary meeting on 25 August 2021 where the focus is on resolving to decide the preferred candidate and a coterminous independent review of the recruitment process as to the conflict of interest. The late notification of the conflict of interest by Council’s Recruitment Panel disadvantaged the full Council in managing the conflict and, like the Panel, the full Council lacked an adequate understanding of the conflict of interest issue.
    • The restriction of the recruitment agency not being involved in any decision as to the relevant candidate’s suitability to manage the conflict of interest did not adequately address the perceived bias.
    • The appropriate management strategy was to remove the recruitment agency from the recruitment process. This would have entirely removed the perceived conflict of interest or any potential conflict of interest.
    • There was no actual bias in Council’s resolution of the relevant candidate as the preferred candidate. Each of the Councillors selected their preferred candidate following the process recommended by the recruitment agency and free from any influence or bias created by the recruitment agency. The Panel members selected their preferred 6 candidates, and then their top 3 following interviews to present to Council, and then their individually preferred candidate following a full Council interview. They did so using an Assessment Matrix where they scored candidates. The remaining 5 Councillors did the same in selecting their individually preferred candidate from the 3 candidates presented to full Council.
    • The Council’s management of the conflict of interest in the General Manager recruitment process did not breach the Code of Conduct, LG Act or Framework.
    • The conduct engaged in by the Council in managing the conflict falls below expected standards of managing conflicts, particularly having regard to the need for public confidence in the recruitment process of its General Manager.
  2. Notes the finding of the Independent Review that there was no actual bias in the appointment process but resolves to have regard to the findings of the Independent Review in all future appointment processes.

 

Council general manager recruitment, appointment and performance assessment - Tasmanian Audit Office

The Report of the Auditor-General No. 2 of 2021-22: Council general manager recruitment, appointment and performance assessment was tabled in Parliament on 12 October 2021.

The objective of this audit was to form a reasonable assurance conclusion on whether recruitment and appointment of general managers by local government councils was conducted in accordance with the principles of merit, equity and transparency and whether performance assessments followed the principles of fairness, integrity and impartiality and were aligned with councils’ strategic objectives.

The audit examined and analysed general manager recruitment, selection and appointment and performance assessment information for the following councils:

Recruitment, selection and appointment

  • Brighton
  • Burnie City
  • Clarence
  • George Town
  • Meander Valley
  • West Coast.

Performance assessment

  • Circular Head
  • Central Highlands
  • Huon Valley
  • Launceston City
  • Northern Midlands
  • Sorell.

Councils were selected based on their size and location in addition to time the general manager had been in the position.

Addendum – Huon Valley Council general manager recruitment process:

The objective of this review was to form a limited assurance conclusion on the effectiveness of the Huon Valley Council in managing conflicts of interest during the process to recruit a general manager.

This review covered Council’s management of conflicts of interest in the recruitment process, which ran from 31 March 2021 to 15 September 2021.

The suitability of the applicant selected for interview and subsequently appointed was not within the scope of the review.

The full report can be viewed here.

Costs associated to General Manager recruitment

A motion was carried at the Closed Council Meeting on 31 March 2021 to confirm a budget amount of $50,000 for the General Manager recruitment process (this would include the cost of engaging an external consultant to conduct the recruitment process and obtaining legal advice as required).

An announcement of this information was made during public question time of the Open Council Meeting on 26 October 2021. As noted in the 26 October Minutes a total of $18,293 (inc GST) was paid to Edge Legal for an independent review of the recruitment process and a total of $7,273.20 (inc GST) was paid to Simmons Wolfhagen for further legal advice regarding assertions that there was a breach of the Criminal Code Act 1924. Simmons Wolfhagen considered the potential risks to Council which may arise under defamation law, contract law and privacy principles through the release of the Edge Legal report. In addition to this, legal advice regarding assertions that there was a breach of the Criminal Code Act was obtained.

Key Dates

  • 15/3/2021 Resignation of General Manager received
  • 31/3/2021 Closed Council meeting held and General Manager Recruitment Panel was appointed - Mayor Enders, Deputy Mayor Doyle, Cr’s Newell and Wilson
  • 22/4/2021 Red Giant appointed as Recruitment Agency
  • 5/5/2021 Recruitment advertising commenced
  • 16/6/2021 Vacancy created for General Manager Recruitment Panel due to the removal of Cr Mike Wilson
  • 23/6/2021 Council meeting held and resolved to appoint a new General Manager Recruitment Panel after the new Councillor is appointed by the Tasmanian Electoral Commission
  • 2/7/2021 Special Council meeting held and appointed General Manager Recruitment Panel - Mayor Enders, Deputy Mayor Doyle, Cr’s Newell and Campbell
  • 16/7/2021 Complaint lodged with Director Local Government
  • 16/8/2021 Closed Special Council meeting held to discuss General Manager Recruitment Matters
  • 25/8/2021 Closed Special Council meeting held to discuss General Manager Recruitment Matters
  • 25/8/2021 External Review of recruitment process commenced
  • 31/8/2021 General Manager, Jason Browne appointed
  • 15/9/2021 Closed Special Council meeting held to discuss General Manager Recruitment Matters
  • 29/9/2021 Ordinary Council Meeting held and Council agreed to release redacted version of key findings of Review Report