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End "jobs for the boys" culture at Town Hall: city councillor

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Adelaide City Council should overhaul the way it appoints councillors to paid board positions to prevent a factionalised “jobs for the boys” culture at Town Hall, a councillor says.

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Area councillor Robert Simms told InDaily he would propose that the council adopt a “merit-based” appointment process whereby remunerated committees, boards or authorities would select a councillor to recommend for appointment, based on their skills or qualifications.

He said board appointments should also strive to better reflect diversity in the community, including a councillor’s gender, ethnicity, culture or sexuality.

Currently, it is up to elected members to nominate and vote on which councillor they appoint to boards.

There are four main remunerated boards on which city councillors sit, including the Adelaide Park Lands Authority ($384 per meeting), the Rundle Mall Management Authority ($665 per meeting), the council’s Assessment Panel ($500 per meeting) and the Central Market Authority ($15,450 each year).

One city councillor (Helen Donovan) also sits on the Stormwater Management Authority, but that remunerated position, which pays $12,383 each year, was elected under the Minister’s consideration and is not directly tied to the council.

There are currently three male councillors (Alexander Hyde, Houssam Abiad and Franz Knoll) who sit on the council’s main remunerated boards, while Anne Moran sits on the fourth (the council’s Assessment Panel).

Hyde, Abiad and Knoll are also associated with the council’s majority “Team Adelaide” faction and are Liberal Party members, while Moran claims she is an “independent” councillor.

Simms, a Greens Party member who is not aligned with Team Adelaide, said the current process meant that appointments may not be representative of gender diversity or the broader skill-set of the council.

“At the moment it’s purely a political process and that’s why I think many in the community could regard it as being a jobs for the boys approach when really what we need is an independent merit-based process that’s depoliticised,” he said.

“There are lots of people on the council who have skills and expertise who would not necessarily be given favourable consideration simply because they’re not part of the ruling faction or they’re not part of that team.

“I think that sort of approach undermines the legitimacy of the board process.”

Area councillor Robert Simms. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Simms suggested the boards conduct a selection process for councillor nominees and provide the council with a recommended candidate for consideration and endorsement.

He denied that he would directly benefit from pushing for councillors who are not part of Team Adelaide to be better represented on renumerated boards, saying that under his proposal he could only be appointed on merit.

“Whether or not I would be considered a person suitable of appointment would be a matter for any board or committee should I wish to apply.

“I’m not suggesting that I should be given any special consideration, but there are lots of good people on council that have been currently overlooked.”

The idea has been labelled a “petty attempt to smear some councillors” by Hyde, who sits on the Park Lands Authority.

The Deputy Lord Mayor said he was “all for rigorous process”, but redirecting appointment powers to council staff and “subordinate” boards would compromise the “legislative requirement for impartiality of our administration”

“If these issues aren’t enough, the ultimate decision ends up exactly where it started – with Council – meaning this process, cost, red tape only achieves confusion and a possible breach of the law,” Hyde said.

“The appointment process is transparent, foreshadowed on the public agenda, voted on in public and broadcast live online.

“Not one member of the public has raised concerns about the process with me, so it seems this is a petty attempt to smear some councillors by inventing a problem to solve.”

Hyde said Simms’ claim that there was a “jobs for the boys” culture at Town Hall was “completely false”.

“Currently councillors Donovan and Moran serve in well-remunerated Council appointments, with councillor Moran receiving $500 for CAP (Council Assessment Panel) meetings, which may go for as little as 20 minutes,” he said.

Franz Knoll, who sits on the Rundle Mall Management Authority, said while it was useful for councillors with specific skills to sit on boards, the main focus was to represent the interests of the council.

“They’re already merit-based boards that should theoretically already have experts from each area,” he said.

“I don’t see much value in them (the boards) choosing because it’s not about a skillset, we are delivering that political component because that’s who we are – politicians at a local level – that represent the interests of the Adelaide City Council.”

InDaily attempted to contact Anne Moran and Houssam Abiad for comment.

All up, there are 15 boards and committees on which city councillors serve that are not remunerated.

Simms’ motion will be discussed at this year’s first council meeting on January 28.

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