CEO pitches a curve ball on the eve of his departure

David Pitchford, Melbourne’s soon to depart CEO in an interview reported in the Age Newspaper has made some rather interesting comments. The statements raise more questions and could possible give some insight into why he did not make the grad.

Pitchford had overseen the expansion of the City Council at an unprecedented rate. His out of control unfettered “design me a job” benefits he offered his senior team had left the City facing near bankruptcy. It was not until the Council called in a team of experts management consultants (At an addition cost to the CEO’s $350,000 per year plus benefits remuneration) that the Council began to face reality.

Melbourne has only had three really good Ceos in recent memory. John Young, Elizabeth Proust and Andy Friend. Each person had a different approach and style to governance.

The Council went down hill fast following the appointment of Micheal Malouf (Who most people have forgotten already). It was under Malouf that governance standards declined dramatically and corruption began to set in. The Council no longer maintained a “non-political” professional management. Malouf’s contribution aided and abetted by Alison Lyons lead to the dismissal of the elected City Council who was held out as the escape goat for poor governance whilst Maklouf and the administration escaped blame or accountability. Sure there were just reasons to dismiss the City Council at the time but the situation was made worst by a CEO who was out of his depth.

Part of the solution introduced by the then Minister (He did not last long) Bob Cameron was the introduction of a directly elected Lord Mayor. (On what basis the minister made this decision is difficult to determine as the review hearing was held behind closed doors and copies of submissions received where never published) Exactly who supported the idea is unknown but what is clear is that the directly elected Lord Mayor is part of the problem and not the solution

The direct election of a popular Lord Mayor has failed to deliver good governance and the elected Council is worst off as a result. There are many arguments against the notion of a directly elected Lord Mayor which I will not go into here suffice to say that the Lord Mayor and chairman of the Council must maintain the confidence and support of the elected Council.

A directly elected Mayor is only held accountable once every four years where an appointed Mayor is held accountable daily by the elected Council.

“Mr Pitchford believes Local Government Minister Dick Wynne should review the City of Melbourne Act after next year’s council elections, to evaluate whether the system of a popularly elected lord mayor has worked.”

What was interesting in then Pitchford swan song was his request for the current Local Government Minister Dick Wynn (Former City of Melbourne Lord Mayor) for the Minister to review the direct election model.

The question should be why wait until the newly elected council is elected. Surely any review should be made prior to the 2008 election?

The City of Melbourne is due for a representation review but sadly the City is excluded from the process of review as applies to all other Municipalities in Victoria.

The State Government should undertake a comprehensive review of the City of Melbourne
(Including its external boundaries) early in the new year. Only then will we begin to address the real structural flaws that exist in the management of the City Council.

With the Federal Election soon out of the way NOW is the time to put the review in place and act before the November 2008 Municipal elections.