Calls for city CEO hunt to be postponed

By matthew.martin@dailypost.co.nz, Matthew Martin

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More than 20 people have applied for the chief executive position at the Rotorua District Council but there are renewed calls for the process to be postponed until after October's local body elections.

Rotorua Mayor Kevin Winters said 21 people applied for the job, held by Peter Guerin for almost 12 years.

"This is a good response, however it's the quality of candidates that counts rather than the quantity," Mr Winters said.

"All applications will be assessed over the next week or two and a shortlist of candidates determined. Arrangements will then be made for the full council to interview those shortlisted candidates early next month.

"Once a preferred candidate has been identified reference checks will be undertaken before any contract offer is made."

Mr Winters said he hoped the council would be in a position to make an announcement on an appointment by the end of April.

However, mayoral candidate Steve Chadwick and councillor Charles Sturt have questioned the timing of the process saying it should have been postponed until after October's local body elections.

Mrs Chadwick said she had made inquiries with contacts in Government and had sought a legal opinion from outside of Rotorua which suggested the process was more flexible than the Rotorua public had been led to believe.

"It's the council's right to show some discretion ... but have overlooked the opportunity to appoint an acting or temporary CEO.

"I believe this could be a potential problem and timing is the issue here as well as possible problems with the CEO trying to forge relationships with new councillors."

Mrs Chadwick said she thought postponing the appointment would have been the most logical and commonsense approach.

But, Mr Winters said councillors were following the law.

"The council has acted on the professional legal advice of respected law firm Simpson and Grierson. "This advice makes it very clear that the Local Government Act does not allow the council to extend the incumbent chief executive's contract, which expires on June 30.

"To appoint a chief executive after that date, for any term, requires the council to first advertise the position publicly and call for applications.

"That is exactly the process the council has followed," he said.

Councillor Charles Sturt backed Mrs Chadwick's call saying the process had been a public relations disaster "that lies clearly at the mayor's feet".

But, Infrastructure Services committee chairwoman Glenys Searancke said councillors discussed the option of postponing the appointment process, but decided against it.

"Honestly, I don't see what all the fuss is about.

"We were all aware that we could apply for a six month extension ... but as a council we decided before Christmas we would go ahead."

Mrs Searancke said it was not necessary to delay the process.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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