Newcastle Council senior staffer Glen Cousins sacked

ANOTHER senior Newcastle City Council stafferhas been squeezed out.
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Glen Cousins, the head of the council’s corporate services department, had his contract terminated on Friday, the third senior staff member to leave the council since April.

In a memo sent out on Friday afternoon, the council’s new interim chief executive Jeremy Bath revealed Mr Cousins would have his contract terminated as part of a “restructure” of the organisation.

While his position will still exist, a number of departments including human resources and communications will now report directly to Mr Bath.

It comes less than two months after another appointment from the Jeff McCloy era – legal services boss Frank Giordano – also left the council. Frank Cordingley, another member of the senior staff, retired in April.

But the circumstances behind Mr Cousins’s departure have left some councillors furious.

Under section 332 of the Local Government Act, the senior staff positions within a council – and the roles and reporting lines of staff – are determined by a council “after consulting the general manager”.

Liberal councillor Brad Luke said there had been no consultation with the council about the move, and said having human resources reporting to the general manager of the council was a “governance issue”.

“I’m very concerned because if there is a restructure of council under the Act it must be set by the council as a body, not by the general manager,” he said.

“I understand he does not have the power to do this and I would be very concerned about whether they’ve breached the Act.”

But Mr Bath said the change in reporting lines “has no impact on the roles, size or composition of those business units affected by the change, except for Mr Cousins exiting the organisation under the terms of his contract”.

He said that under section 335 of the Act, he was charged with “the day-to-day management of the council in accordance with the strategic plans, programs, strategies and policies of the council”.

He believed having human resources report to him would mean he was “able to deliver the day-to-day management of the organisation more effectively and more productively”.

Mr Cousins departure is another flashpoint in the tension between Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and some senior staff members.

Along with Mr Giordano and former general manager Ken Gouldthorp –two other McCloy-era hires – it’s understood Mr Cousins had been at odds with Cr Nelmes.

He did not return calls for comment.

In March, he earned the mayor’s ire in a confidential council meeting after an investigation into the process surrounding the recruitment of a new chief executive – Mr Bath – was extended to include Labor councillor DeclanClausen.

The Newcastle Herald understands Mr Cousins was targeted by Cr Nelmes during the meeting because he asked Mr Giordano toseeklegal advice about a possible code of conduct breach by CrClausen.

Mr Bath and Cr Clausen both worked at Hunter Water in the same period, but Cr Clausen has played down the significance of his professional relationship with Mr Bath.

But Cr Nelmes is not the first lord mayor to look to move on staff she did not see eye to eye with.

Last week during a private function at which he did little to water down talk that he’s considering another run at lord mayor, Jeff McCloy admitted thatformergeneral manager Phil Pearce “didn’t last long” after he came into the job because, he said, “it was either me or him”. Mr Pearce quit in early 2013.

“Nice guy of course, but he was there to retire, not to change the city,” Mr McCloy said at the function.

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