New CEO for Gympie council

IT IS not that Gympie Regional Council's new CEO has eight years experience in a similar role that is controversial.

However, when Bernard Smith was general manager of the Port Macquarie-Hastings council the councillors were sacked by the New South Wales government.

Yesterday Gympie Mayor Ron Dyne defended the council's decision to hire Mr Smith.

"We have certainly taken all the checks and investigated the details we can," Cr Dyne said.

"We do not believe we've got any problem. We found out about it in part of our detailed checking."

Two months after the Port Macquarie-Hastings council was dismissed in 2008, Mr Smith resigned from his position with the council.

Back then he cited the controversy as one event which caused him to step down.

But Cr Dyne said the council was confident its new CEO was the best man of the job.

"We've done all the probity checks. He interviewed the best."

There were 43 applicants for the top job - with candidates from overseas and interstate.

Only seven were invited to interview for the position.

Mr Smith told The Gympie Times yesterday he would start work as the new CEO on August 29 and would move to the area with his wife next month.

On his resignation from Port Macquarie-Hastings he said he had been through a few years of turmoil.

The decision to sack the council had come after a public inquiry into the handling of the Port Macquarie Cultural and Entertainment Centre in 2007.

That inquiry found the costs of the project blew out from less than $10 million to over $40 million, and also that the project was not managed well and the community was misled.

Mr Smith said he had been at that council for eight years.

"The last couple of years were extremely tough," he said.

"I don't want to talk politics, but it was a big culturally based project and the council met every legal and procedural requirement. The State Government didn't agree."

When asked if he had learnt anything from the debacle, Mr Smith answered: "You learn something from every situation."

"Every council has contentious issues, some bigger than others."

Cr Dyne said Mr Smith was selected because of his background working with local government.

"He will work with council staff for the betterment of the Gympie area.

"We're confident he's approachable and will work with people for a desired outcome.

"He's active in the community and we look forward to developing a good working relationship with him."

Gympie Times

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