Truce offer from sacked CEO buried by ‘Team’ Scaffidi

FORMER City of Perth CEO Gary Stevenson’s warnings that he was duty-bound to report misconduct led to councillors giving him sour performance reviews before eventually sacking him.

Lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi took the witness box at the WA government’s Perth council inquiry this week, where she was quizzed about her role in sacking Mr Stevenson shortly after receiving a copy of a report he’d written to the Corruption and Crime Commission outlining non-disclosure of gift and travel at the council, including her own.

• Lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi went to quite some effort to get hold of a review by then-CEO Gary Stevenson into potential misconduct at the council, including her own. She instructed her lawyers to write to the CCC to get a copy, and told him she’d got legal advice there was nothing to stop him handing it over himself. Within a day of receiving it, she pulled the trigger to get him sacked.

Damning review

To get the rest of the council on board with the sacking, Ms Scaffidi and her allies on a CEO performance review committee made it appear Mr Stevenson wanted to resign.

The lord mayor and the two other councillors on the committee, Janet Davidson and James Limnios, had prepared a damning review, complaining about the fact “he is not watching our backs”. In a previous review some councillors had also complained about him using the CCC as a “veiled threat”.

Mr Stevenson prepared a spirited defence, saying he was concerned councillors didn’t acknowledge his statutory obligations to report misconduct to the CCC. He said the council’s only options were to sack him, which he’d defend vigorously, or his preference of “ongoing collaboration” to move forward.

But the committee never presented to the full council Mr Stevenson’s preference, providing only a single-page recommendation that suggested he’d offered to resign.

“At this stage Mr Stevenson knew nothing about that,” counsel assisting the commission Kate Ellson put to Ms Scaffidi.

• When Gary Stevenson was hired in 2012 he was the sole candidate put forward by the City of Perth’s three-member CEO selection panel headed by Ms Scaffidi; deemed so outstanding they didn’t nominate any other applicants for a council vote. Within months the relationship had soured, with councillors angry he kept raising the spectre of reporting misconduct to the CCC.

Shattered

“Correct,” the lord mayor replied.

Mr Stevenson had previously told the inquiry he’d been “shattered” to hear of his sacking.

The inquiry also heard Mr Stevenson wasn’t told about the hastily-convened special meeting of council called to vote on his termination, which was a breach of the local government act.

In the lead-up, meetings discussing the CEO’s future were also minuted by Ms Scaffidi’s personal assistant rather that someone from the council’s governance team, while Cr Davidson signed off on the minutes of the performance review committee which falsely suggested Mr Stevenson had offered to resign.

“Certainly the CEO performance review committee business is very much [Mr Stevenson’s] business, isn’t it?” Ms Ellson asked Ms Scaffidi.

“True,” the latter replied.

by DAVID BELL

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