News

Peter Harriott reappointed as Greater Shepparton City Council CEO

By Ashlea Witoslawski

Opinion was divided at Tuesday night’s Greater Shepparton City Council meeting over the reappointment of Peter Harriott as chief executive officer.

Although all nine councillors passed the recommendation to reinstate Mr Harriott as CEO, concerns were raised, including the decision to not advertise an expression of interest for the job.

After the motion was moved by Cr Chris Hazelman, Cr Les Oroszvary spoke against the motion, questioning if Mr Harriott was the ‘‘best person for the job’’.

‘‘The appointment of the CEO is a tremendously important decision, arguably one of the most important council can make,’’ Cr Oroszvary said.

‘‘For council, he is the only employee we have the responsibility for directly employing, giving the importance of such we must be totally convinced he is the best person for the job.’’

Cr Oroszvary said he believed Mr Harriott had done a ‘‘satisfactory job’’ during his four years in the role.

However, he said the council should have advertised an expression of interest for the position.

‘‘In my assessment, those four years have been steady as she goes,’’ he said.

‘‘Making tough decisions ... and sometimes making unpopular decisions is what this role of the CEO is about.

‘‘I felt it important to express my view that there is nothing wrong with challenging the status quo for a potentially better outcome.’’

As part of the statutory process to reappoint Mr Harriott, the council placed a public notice in the Shepparton News in June following the month’s ordinary council meeting.

Councillors then met on July 2 to review the CEO’s contract to be provided to Mr Harriott for signing which included negotiated terms.

Cr Oroszvary also said he was concerned about complacency, a point refuted by Cr Bruce Giovanetti.

‘‘It’s up to us as councillors as the CEO’s employer to ensure that the KPIs we set for the CEO are at a standard to ensure that complacency is not part of the overall performance appraisal,’’ he said.

Cr Fern Summer said she believed there were some good initiatives initiated by Mr Harriott but also areas for improvement.

‘‘I think it’s certainly helpful to keep our options open,’’ she said.

But Cr Dennis Patterson said it was ‘‘surprising’’ to hear this feedback, commending Mr Harriott’s efforts during his four-year term.

‘‘Peter is a pleasure to work with if you want to work with him,’’ he said.

Cr Shelley Sutton also spoke against the motion, stating she would have liked ‘‘to see what was out there’’.

‘‘I agree with Les as you probably all know,’’ she said.

‘‘Not to say that Peter has done a bad job but I think some things he could have done better.’’

When councillors voted for the recommendation it caused confusion when Cr Summer quickly changed her opposing vote.

‘‘I’m not going on the front page (of Shepparton News) being the only one opposed,’’ she said.

After the council meeting, Mayor Kim O’Keeffe said she supported the reappointment of Mr Harriott.

‘‘He has had a successful first four years and he certainly has met all his KPIs, so, to me, that is a very strong positive,’’ she said.

Mr Harriott will serve another four years as CEO effective from January 4, 2020.

THE NEWS' VIEW:

A difference in opinion is healthy and important for the prosperity and innovation of any local council.

However, the comments made and the decision to reappoint Peter Harriott as Greater Shepparton City Council chief executive officer were confusing, leaving many in the gallery puzzled.

Carefully reading from a crafted script, Cr Les Oroszvary had done a lot of research, which included statistics about CEOs in general and the Victorian landscape of local government.

Getting to a point in which he need more time, Cr Oroszvary stressed the idea that change was not something to be afraid of, but something that should be embraced before sharing he would not be opposing the vote.

This move was obviously not only confusing to us at the News but also to Cr Fern Summer, who changed her opposing vote after noticing neither Cr Oroszvary nor Cr Shelley Sutton had opposed the recommendation.

This leaves us wondering why did they all speak publicly only to let the motion be carried unopposed?

Why not show solidarity and support your convictions on the matter?