The role of Chief Executive Officer in a municipal council comes with significant responsibility but also presents many challenges in delivering the expected operational or service delivery functions in the context of a political democracy. Council CEOs are, by virtue of leading a public entity, visible and accessible with high levels of accountability to their employer (elected councillors), the community and the council as a business. While accountability to these three areas is common for most CEOs, it is the status or composition of the employer and the relationship with this employer that contributes to the uniqueness of the role.
Recent investigations and events have directed our focus on the unique employer/employee relationship. This is prescribed under the legislative framework for local government, where the CEO is employed and managed by an entity comprised of elected community representatives who make decisions by democratic vote. It creates a unique situation where a group of people, who may have limited capability in managing employment cycles, have a say in the employment relationship but no single individual is responsible.
The challenges this creates are numerous and are, for the most part, managed well across the sector but in the cases we have reviewed, the employment and management process has not worked well. In each case there were either adverse outcomes for the CEO, adverse outcomes for the councillors or significant challenges for the council as an organisation, or a combination of all three. What was consistent in all cases was the cost of the outcome, a cost which is ultimately borne by the community.
With the cost to community in mind, the purpose of this review was to seek views from across the sector to assist in defining the issues and then identify where improvements to legislation, policies or processes could reduce the instances of adverse outcomes. I wish to thank the parties that provided advice and opinions to inform this work and look forward to the progress of our recommendations that, in our view, assist councils and CEOs in their employment relationship.
David Wolf, Chief Municipal Inspector
Reviewed 04 December 2019