REVEALED: Secret investigation of council staffers

 

AN independent workplace consultant was appointed almost two months ago to stage a secret investigation into the turbulent relationships in council's powerful planning department.

The Bulletin can reveal the consultant was engaged in mid-June to undertake the inquiry into the leadership of the directorate, which focused on the working relationships between senior staff.

Photo of CEO Dale Dickson and Mayor Tom Tate. Pic by Richard Gosling
Photo of CEO Dale Dickson and Mayor Tom Tate. Pic by Richard Gosling

But until late last week many councillors had no idea - and some of them still don't understand what happened and why the roles of three respected staff members at council have ended.

Two senior executives left last Friday and another, in the Office of City Architect, will not have their contract renewed when it expires in early November.

A council insider said: "Many of the councillors are asking what is going on. They have no idea."

Council CEO Dale Dickson, who has declined to comment publicly at length about the internal staffing matter, informed councillors and other senior staff by email late on Friday.

The Bulletin understands the staff and councillors were told "this decision has not been taken lightly".

Council chamber meeting — CEO Dale Dickson and Mayor Tom Tate. Pic by Richard Gosling.
Council chamber meeting — CEO Dale Dickson and Mayor Tom Tate. Pic by Richard Gosling.

The council administration has had a shake-up with at least another three officers forced into acting positions.

Council has sought the support of the consultant to provide back-up advice to the planning team.

The external recruitment process could take up to three months and occurs at a critical time when the directorate should be sending the City Plan amendments to the State Government.

SECRET COUNCIL REVIEW OF CITY PLAN CHANGES

A recent development application showed for the first time tensions between planning officers and the City Architect's section. Planners wanted to approve a high-rise development and their colleagues were more focused on amenity and site coverage.

The tensions with the directorate, staff and some councillors have been obvious to major developers fronting with complex development applications.

"Some of these officers don't get along," an experienced development industry consultant said.

Palm Beach meeting in City Plan changes. Picture Glenn Hampson.
Palm Beach meeting in City Plan changes. Picture Glenn Hampson.

Many councillors were also ignorant of a confidential review of the City Plan amendments.

The community consultation for the City Plan had led to packed meetings at development hot spots at Labrador and Palm Beach, scaling back high-density projects to cater for future population growth.

As council finalised the plans in recent months, developers were not silent in warning the council administration of the consequences.

Gold Coast City Council planning chair Cameron Caldwell looks at proposed changes to the City Plan.
Gold Coast City Council planning chair Cameron Caldwell looks at proposed changes to the City Plan.

"Up to 90 per cent of these property applications will not occur or be changed under the City Plan amendments," the development industry source said. "The key is it might force the (economic) close down of the Gold Coast during the pandemic."

The controversy is likely to be debated at a planning committee meeting next week.

Originally published as REVEALED: Secret investigation of council staffers