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TDC chief executive resigns suddenly

August 26th, 2011
[by David Armstrong]

Tasman District Council CEO Paul Wylie yesterday morning unexpectedly announced his resignation to take up a new role as CEO of Buller District Council. He says his decision to move had nothing to do with the amalgamation issue.

"When I came to Tasman I originally came with the personal aspiration of staying for two five year terms," he said in a press release. "Earlier this year, the Council extended the existing five year contract for a further two years, which does not give me the employment security I desire.

"I enjoy work and have no intention of retiring. When the previous Chief Executive of Buller Council, Gary Murphy told me he was taking up a position in Australia I made enquiries with the Buller District Council about the role. This has culminated in me accepting their offer of a five year term as Chief Executive.

"My excitement over the new role is tinged with some sadness as I feel there is a lot of unfinished business in Tasman. I believe the Tasman District has an exciting future.

"I want to make it absolutely clear that my acceptance of the Buller offer has nothing to do with the amalgamation issue. I am completely convinced that the people of Tasman will reject the idea of amalgamation as it is quite clear that it will not improve local government or financial efficiency in the district", he said.

Some critics of TDC, such as Golden Bay's Joe Bell, have pointed the finger at Mr Wylie as the driving force behind the perceived failure of the council to listen to the district's communities and to allow more delegation of powers to community boards.

In accepting Mr Wylie's resignation, Mayor Richard Kempthorne said in the press release that the council completely understands his reasoning. "I am only full of praise for the work that Mr Wylie has achieved in his time at Tasman District Council and the District will be poorer for his leaving. I only hope the District can find someone of his calibre for the future and I wish him all the best for his new role in Buller."

Mr Wylie will be taking up his new role in early December. Motueka Online understands that TDC is likely to appoint an interim CEO from one of its senior management team. It would be unlikely that an advertised CEO position would be attractive to any talented candidate while uncertainties remain over whether or not Tasman District will remain beyond the amalgamation debate.


Comment by Joe Bell, Golden Bay:
[Posted 30 August 2011]

The reported comments in The Nelson Mail of 26 and 27 August by Tasman and Buller mayors regarding the comings and goings of Paul Wylie give rise to great concern.

It is not a CEO's role to 'lead the council'. It is a CEO's role to 'serve the council'. A council belongs to the citizens of its jurisdiction. A council is led by the citizen's elected representatives who direct the CEO who directs the staff. For Mr Kempthorne to reportedly say of Mr Wylie: "He's done exactly what we wanted and needed and that was to give very clear leadership". Really?

So, the insidious targeted rates on communities with Community Boards were exactly what council wanted, were they? The withholding of delegations? The CEO reports which failed to stand scrutiny? And the Hope Domain debacle?

Buller mayor Pat McManus's comment that Buller needed a chief executive to "make some hard and fast decisions on local issues" indicates that the vital elected representative governance role will continue to be abdicated.

Later press release from TDC
[Posted 9 September 2011]

The Tasman District Council will be advertising for a new CEO following the recent resignation of the current CEO Paul Wylie to take up the same position in the Buller District.

"The recruitment process will start within the next few weeks," said Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne. "After considerable discussion and debate amongst the Councillors today, a majority decision was made to pursue this course of action as the best one for the organisation and community.

The appointment of a permanent CEO will ensure ongoing management and the delivery of Council decisions and obligations, which involves looking after a billion dollars worth of assets and providing essential services to Tasman residents and ratepayers.

"The timing and cost were issues discussed today in relation to the amalgamation proposal, however, the most important factor was the need maintain Council services to the community, and to provide direction and management of the organisation to meet the needs of the District.

"The Tasman District Council is a lean operation and interim management is not ideal with the current heavy workload the Council has to manage. There will be a short time when one of the current senior managers will provide temporary cover. The Council believes that the position will be well sought after given the opportunities in the Tasman District. I believe this is a positive step for the future of our community" said Mayor Kempthorne.

Comment by John Kelly
[Posted 13 September 2011]

The vote to appoint a new CEO for a 5 year term should not have been close. The Mayor and more than half the councillors apparently feel they are dangerously exposed without a high-powered, high-end, professional CEO - even if their tenure might be well short of the contract they are offering, and may cost the ratepayers dearly.

It is distressing to repeatedly hear from the Mayor and Councillors that "leadership" and "direction" are required in the form of a CEO, when in fact they need to be coming from Council. The amalgamation issue is not a year away - if the LGC presents a final plan it would be voted on in early 2012. Even assuming a candidate was located and agreed upon very quickly, the reality would entail senior staff effectively leading the organisation during the interim period as the new CEO would not have time to be sufficiently oriented.

Cr. Glenys Glover's points as to the costs, risks and uncertainty involved are well taken, and the rush to hire a new CEO when the future is uncertain is irresponsible. Appointing an experienced candidate from senior management for a shorter term is just common sense.

Comment by John Hutton
[Posted 17 September 2011]

I strongly urge the Tasman District Council (TDC) to reconsider its decision to recruit and hire a replacement CEO. This reconsideration should be done ASAP and before too much money and time is spent by the recruitment agency/consultant. Why?

Whether or not amalgamation does occur, however, the risk of a changeover is great enough to warrant appointing an interim CE for six months. It would take something like three to four months to even find and relocate a replacement (four to six weeks to recruit and interview, a week or two to decide and appoint, four weeks notice, for a total of something like 10 to 12 weeks before a replacement would be on-site).

This, of course, would also be happening around Christmas holiday time which complicates timing even more, and it seems likely that a new CE would not be 'on-deck' until around mid-January.

Fully supporting John Kelly's comments of the 13th September, this vote should not have been close. It is extremely disappointing that such a decision was made, particularly because of the time it takes to recruit any professional at the level of a council Chief Executive (CE), and also because of the cost of recruiting, assessing, appointing, and relocating a new CE. Given that a vote on amalgamation will likely take place before April of 2012, it would appear that a new CE could potentially be in office for a couple of months before having to vacate the office (if amalgamation occured).

What type of CE would accept that kind of contract? None - which is why the TDC has apparently decided to offer a five year contract. But, if amalgamation occurs, then the successful appointee as new CE would get his/her contract paid out (a not insubstantial sum of money - several hundred thousand dollars at least, I suggest) - that means the Council is gambling with taxpayers money - not part of the electoral bargain when voting for a Councillor, as far as I am concerned. Council should act as caretaker/ custodians of our tax money and the Council assets, they should not be betting with them.

One of the important aspects of organisational management is the issue of succession planning. It seems that the outgoing CE did not make appropriate arrangements for such succession as the TDC states that it does not have the talent in-house to fill the role. Yet, the outgoing CE is lauded for being such a great CE - what am I missing here?

Somewhere along the line, the TDC has apparently lost the ability to govern. It cannot hand over the reins to a CE - the professional management of the organisation is the Council's responsibility - that is why we select our councillors, it's why we pay them, and it's what taxpayers have a right to expect, and it their legal responsibility when they take their oath of office.

Arguably, individual Councillors have a fiduciary responsibility to manage our District's funds with great care, and that will not occur if this recruitment action continues. There is still time to stop it, and a reconsideration of the decision by TDC could achieve that result.

I ask each Councillor to think again about their earlier vote, and that they act to hold an extraordinary session to reverse that earlier decision as soon as possible. It is not too late to appoint an interim CE from within the council staff (or maybe even rotate the interim CE role among/between several qualified senior staff members), and wait until the amalgamation vote occurs before deciding what to do about a new CE.

Failure to reconsider this ridiculous decision, should put the voters on alert for the next election, and the Council should publicise which councillors voted for and against that recruitment - accountability is, after all, the foundation stone for democracy, isn't it?

Comment by Joe Bell
[Posted 17 September 2011]

It is staggering to read in the Nelson Mail (September 9) that a 7-5 TDC majority decided to recruit a new CEO before there is clarity on the future of the council. When the previous CEO retired, a manager acted in the role for several months. With the present CEO's departure there is no reason why this couldn't happen again.

No doubt the mayor and council majority will be lost without CEO reports to rubber stamp. However, 'governance' is about 'strong effective leadership'. The $112,800.00 pa mayoral pay is for more than ribbon-cutting.

Mr. Kempthorne reportedly seeks to continue to abdicate governance responsibility by stating "council was looking for a new chief executive because it needed strong effective leadership". That is the role of elected representatives, not employees. If mayor and council majority cannot do the governance job they should also resign.

As five councillors realized, making a CEO appointment at this time makes no sense. It is like planting a lethal landmine of cost. The mayor and council majority are strongly advised to read Local Government Act s44 (1) (a) and (c) and s46 regarding 'liability for loss' and rescind their ill-considered decision.

Comment by Joe Bell
[Posted 5 October 2011]

Ratepayers will be pleased that Mr. Wylie's two months leave will not be charged out at his exorbitant Community Board hourly rate of $336.00. 43 days x 8 hours @ $336.00 per hour would amount to $115,584.00.

Editor's Comment
[Posted 5 October 2011]

The Nelson Mail has published an interesting feature article on Mr Wylie's departure and legacy. Read it here.

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