City of Greater Bendigo councillors divided over CEO's position, will vote in private

THE PROCESS: Mayor Margaret O'Rourke said the decision to vote on whether to advertise current CEO Craig Niemann's job behind closed doors after an August 16 council meeting was "part of the process".

THE PROCESS: Mayor Margaret O'Rourke said the decision to vote on whether to advertise current CEO Craig Niemann's job behind closed doors after an August 16 council meeting was "part of the process".

The City of Greater Bendigo’s intention to advertise its chief executive position has divided councillors, who will vote on the issue behind closed doors next week.

The Bendigo Advertiser understands three councillors are in favour of reappointing current CEO Craig Niemann, three are firm in wanting to advertise the role and have won the support of two others. 

It is understood a decision was made this week for councillors to vote on the issue behind closed doors after the August 16 council meeting.   

Related: Council plans to advertise CEO position

Mayor Margaret O’Rourke said councillors felt having a vote in private was the most appropriate way to deal with the topic, however the Bendigo Advertiser understands some councillors may have wanted to speak to the issue during the public meeting.

Cr O’Rourke said she did not believe councillors were divided on the matter.

TIGHT LIPPED: Mayor Margaret O'Rourke says the city's intention to advertise the CEO job was a way of testing the market.

TIGHT LIPPED: Mayor Margaret O'Rourke says the city's intention to advertise the CEO job was a way of testing the market.

“I think people have different views on it (decision to advertise the CEO position), but it’s not divided,” she said. 

“It is part of the process.”

Cr O’Rourke, when previously asked if the issue had divided councillors, said:  “There was a discussion about that (the CEO position), and that will come out to play in the next council meeting.”

“There’s no opinions of Craig, this is around the process.”

However the mayor told the Bendigo Advertiser on Tuesday that it was never the intention to publicly vote or discuss the CEO position.  

Eppalock Ward representative Cr Yvonne Wrigglesworth, speaking recently, said she didn't expect any councillors to publicly talk about the CEO position.

“I wouldn’t suspect there would be much debate on this (vote to advertise CEO job). The discussion about whether or not Craig is the right candidate isn't appropriate,” she said. 

“It’s irrelevant what the internal discussions are. This is about the best thing for Bendigo.”

There is scope within the Local Government Act to vote on an issue behind closed doors.

It is understood the city’s current CEO sought reappointment prior to the announcement that councillors intended to advertise the position. 

Related: Craig Niemann stays put

Section 94 of the Local Government Act 1989 states a council may pass a resolution to reappoint a CEO in the six months prior to a person’s contract is due to expire. 

In announcing council’s intention to advertise late last month, mayor Margaret O’Rourke said they had the option to reappoint or advertise and they chose the latter. 

“People will seek reappointment but that isn’t a given,” she said.

In 2012 then councillors voted to reappoint current chief executive Craig Niemann without advertising the role. 

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