Buckley defends appointment

Former Latrobe City chief executive Paul Buckley has chastised renewed accusations he favourably employed two past colleagues into high ranking positions at the Bass Coast Shire.

In an article published in the South Gippsland Sentinel-Times last week, former Victorian Liberal opposition leader and community advocate Alan Brown launched an “all out assault” against the Bass Coast Shire and Mr Buckley, who transferred to Bass Coast in late 2013.

Under the subheading ‘Jobs for mates’, Mr Brown described Mr Buckley’s hiring of former Latrobe City general managers Allison Jones and David Elder into senior Bass Coast managerial positions as an example of “shocking governance”.

“Good governance demands that one does not appoint mates or family to employment positions. What has happened here is the worst example of governance I can recall seeing in local government,” Mr Brown said in the article.

Former Latrobe City general manager of economic sustainability Allison Jones, an employee of nine years, was hired as Bass Coast’s general manager of sustainable development and growth in November last year, while former Latrobe City acting general manager community liveability David Elder was appointed general manager of healthy communities.

“That so many of most senior recent appointments to Bass Coast Shire Council including the CEO all came from the same workforce at the Latrobe City Council is seen by the community as ‘jobs for mates’,” Mr Brown said.

In a staunch defence of the hirings, Mr Buckley said the recruitments went through an open and transparent process, and in this particular instance “utilised the services of an independent professional recruitment company”.

“In the 21st century, it is ludicrous to think that council would discriminate against people on the basis of where they were previously employed. In fact, any such practice would be illegal,” Mr Buckley said.

“The first step in this process was for the independent company to shortlist candidates. A thorough interview process was then undertaken, including the independent recruitment company and one of council’s existing general managers, to ensure we made an independent assessment of applicants.

“All of the people on the selection panel were unanimous in deciding who should be appointed.”

Mr Brown’s criticism comes after The Sentinel published a letter last November flagging concerns over the appointments of Mr Elder and Ms Jones.

“To paraphrase an old legal saying ‘not only must justice be done with the propriety of senior appointments; it must also be seen to be done’ and this should have ruled out the eligibility of Mr Buckley’s colleagues, no matter how well qualified they were,” the letter wrote.

Meanwhile online citizen publication Bass Coast Post described the hiring as Mr Buckley having “poached” two former colleagues.

Ms Jones resigned from Latrobe City council in April 2014 as part an exodus of Latrobe City’s entire team of five general managers, ahead of an administrative restructure under acting chief executive John Mitchell.