IN an extraordinary display of solidarity, 155 staff at Vincent city council—81 per cent of its workforce—have signed a petition to save the job of their CEO, John Giorgi.
Last week the council voted 7–1 to not renew Mr Giorgi’s contract when it expires December 31 (Voice, February 22, 2014). Mayor John Carey was amongst those voting to let him go, and the petition is unlikely to change minds.
On Tuesday more than 30 dour-faced staff filed into the council meeting, headed by switchboard operator Pat Hegney who presented the petition with an emotional plea.
“We stand united in support of our CEO,”
Getting off to a shaky start, strength gradually crept into her voice: “We stand united in support of our CEO,” she told the council with resolution.
“For 20 years the CEO has worked tirelessly and devoted his life to Vincent, and he’s always placed the best interests of the staff, and the city’s residents and the ratepayers above all else.
“John’s proven leadership and experience is paramount in providing a stable work environment as we move forward with the changes required with local government reform,” she finished, to applause from staffers.
Then Leederville publican and former councillor John Little—a long-time ally of former mayor Nick Catania—got to his feet.
“Mr Giorgi has been a faithful servant of this town/city for the past 20 years,” he said.
“Your decision has totally demoralised the staff. You’re not going to be here in two years’ time, what possible reason would you guys have to make that decision other than political pique? This is a political decision, and it is wrong and it should be rescinded, or you should resign.”
Former councillor Dudley Maier then weighed in to say the council had made the right decision.
“I feel I need to speak in support of council, because the council cannot speak,” he said.
“The process defines what councillors can and cannot say: they cannot speak about that process because it deals with an employee.
“It’s not some decision made by a capricious pack of rabble, it seems to be due process that has been followed.”
He said the last time Mr Giorgi’s five-year contract was renewed was four days before an election, without any discussion and with two years left on it. Mr Maier and Cr Sally Lake were the only dissenters then.
Mr Maier said this time around four meetings were held where the issue was properly discussed.
Mr Maier said he understood why Mr Little might support the CEO so avidly, given the speed with which his most recent application was dealt with.
“June the 7th Mr Little put in a development application,” Mr Maier said. “That was a Friday… on the Tuesday councillors voted on it.
“That is a fantastic response and I have no problems with that: every member of the community should be able to expect that response [but] most people have to wait months.”
Mr Maier said: “the other thing that concerned me was this petition from staff.
“A staff member expressed some concern because they felt intimidated by the petition.
“Their names would be on a list, their supervisor would see it, and potentially the CEO would see it. The CEO would also know who’s not on the list.
“I think it is really touching that 138 staff members support the [CEO], but we as the community vote for council members to make decisions and sometimes they’re hard decisions, and they’re made with a lot more information than maybe the council staff can see.
“So I think it’s not a popularity process, you’re elected to represent us.”
Mayor John Carey told the meeting he couldn’t comment on a staff member, but he could say, “this council has considered this matter with honesty, sincerity, and integrity, in accordance with the code of conduct and the local government act”.
“The deliberations on this matter around this table have been significant, extensive, and some may actually say, exhausting.
“We considered this as agenda items on October 15, November 19, December 19, considered it over the summer months, with a final decision made in February.
“And I understand there will be some critics in this community who will use this as an opportunity to attack the City of Vincent.”
He said the council had a big agenda to get through between now and amalgamations, including town centre upgrades, a $2.5million spend on the bike plan, the greening project, and more community forums this year than ever before.
“I want to ensure the group here that I will work my guts out with this council to deliver despite the many changes that may happen over the next year and a half.”
by DAVID BELL