Central Coast Councillors were given five minutes notice at around 3pm on Friday, October 30, that they were to be suspended for three months by Local Government Minister Ms Shelley Hancock.
Cr Chris Holstein who represented the Peninsula as a Gosford West Ward councillor said he had been given five-minutes notice that his computer and phone would be disconnected.
The former State Member for Gosford and Gosford mayor said: “I was even told to return my Council pants, which I was wearing.”
NSW Local Government Minister Ms Shelley Hancock issued an order for the three-month suspension of the elected councillors and appointed veteran public servant Mr Dick Persson as “interim” administrator.
Mr Persson was appointed administrator of the new Northern Beaches Council in 2016 at the same time Mr Ian Reynolds was appointed administrator of Central Coast Council.
Ms Hancock said the interim administrator would “restore the proper and effective functioning of the council”.
“There is a clear need for greater oversight and control over the council’s budget and expenditure to restore its financial sustainability and importantly re-instill the community’s trust in the effective functioning of their council,” Ms Hancock said.
“Mr Persson is a highly experienced local government administrator with a proven track record of fixing council dysfunction,” she said.
“He was appointed administrator following the dismissal of Warringah Council in 2003 and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council in 2008 as well as Northern Beaches Council when it was created in 2016.
“He has also held senior roles in the NSW, Queensland and Federal governments.
“Mr Persson will bring with him a highly experienced former local government general manager Mr Rik Hart to oversee the council’s operational recovery.
“Mr Hart has nearly two decades of experience as a local government general manager at councils including the City of Parramatta, Inner West Council and Warringah Council.
“Dick Persson and Rik Hart bring with them the knowledge, skills and experience needed to restore the financial sustainability of Council,” Ms Hancock said.
“I am pleased that two such highly-experienced and qualified local government professionals are taking up these positions.”
Ms Hancock said she made the decision to suspend the council after carefully considering a submission from the council in response to a notice of intention issued on October 21.
Ms Hancock gave the elected Councillors seven days to show why they should not be suspended following allegations that the Council was millions of dollars in debt following expenditure of restricted funds.
“The appointment of an interim administrator will provide independent governance to address financial, reputational and organisational risks,” she said.
Suspension applies to the mayor and councillors but does not affect council staff and daily operations.
The administrator will perform the functions of the mayor and councillors for three months.
Media release, 30 Oct 2020
Shelley Hancock, Minister for Local Government
Interview (Jackie Pearson), 30 Oct 2020
Chris Holstein, Central Coast Councillor