Search for the CEO: Newcastle conservatives welcome review despite vote confusion

Cr Brad Luke, right, and lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes exchange words after an aborted council meeting last week. A TRIO of conservative Newcastle councillors say they have nothing to hideafter being referred to the Office of Local Government overthe search for a new interim chief executive.
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In a now-contested vote on Tuesday night, the council supported a motion by Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes which included referring councillors Brad Luke (Liberal), Andrea Rufo (Independent) and Allan Robinson (Independent) to the council watchdog.

However, it was only the next day when Cr Luke learned he was named as part of the investigation approved by council.

“She [Cr Nelmes]handed out a piece of paper with something written on it … then she said another thing, moved it and voted on it,” Cr Luke said.

The council requested theOffice of Local Government investigate “reported conversations” between Cr Luke, Cr Rufo and Cr Robinson prior to the start of interviewsin the appointment of the next interim CEO.

Cr Robinson claims he was told, by a member of the public, who had been appointed to the top job two days before interviews began. Cr Rufo – who was one of three councillors on the interviewing panel – later resigned in protest due to what he believed was a tainted process.

Tuesday’s motioncalled for Cr Rufo’s actions to be investigated, “and the fact none of these ‘concerns’ were raised by Cr Rufo during the process”.

Asked the next daywhether he agreed with the lord mayor’s motion, Cr Rufo replied: “I was still reading the document when she was calling for votes. I’m named in there and I wasn’t given time to vote”.

The Independent councillor abstained from voting because he was still reading what was being moved.

However, Cr Nelmes was adamant everyone had enough time to read the 147-word document.

“I clearly said, ‘It’s a motion, as distributed’,” she said. “I said, ‘Has everyone read the motion?’.

“Everyone said yes.”

Asked why the motion wasn’t read out in full, Cr Nelmes said: “You don’t get to hear every motion, otherwise we’d be there all night.”

Despite the confusion, Cr Rufo said he welcomed the Office of Local Government review. “I’m excited to be given the opportunity to raise my concerns,” he said.

Cr Robinson said the review was the “greatest thing ever”, while Cr Luke said it needed to be an “in-depth investigation that interviewed everyone”.