The future of Central Coast Council CEO Gary Murphy is in doubt. Picture: Sue Graham
The future of Central Coast Council CEO Gary Murphy is in doubt. Picture: Sue Graham

Ex-Lismore GM's future debated after council's $89M deficit

CENTRAL Coast Council's chief executive officer Gary Murphy's job is safe for now.

Central Coast councillors debated Mr Murphy's future in the role of CEO at last night's meeting after a vote of no confidence was called against Mr Murphy.

The move follows the announcement of council's $89 million budget deficit last week, which has shocked not only councillors but also the community.

Mr Murphy was the general manager at Lismore City Council for seven years until he resigned to take up the Central Coast role in 2018.

Central Coast councillor Best called for a vote of no confidence in Mr Murphy, however this was withdrawn by fellow councillors.

Instead councillors voted to acknowledge the stress the news has caused the community and establish a financial committee, including all 15 councillors, to oversee the Office of Local Government's (OLG) forensic audit and the council's 100 day recovery plan.

"We need to be a part of the solution," Mayor Lisa Matthews said. "It's not the time to point fingers. We are all in this together."

Cr Best said it was fair and reasonable to call the vote of no confidence, with the financial crisis likely to cost "hundreds of millions of dollars".

However Cr Kyle MacGregor said the move against Mr Murphy - who is not present at the council meeting - would leave council liable for damages. He said a prosecution case should be done through the correct measures.

Deputy Mayor Jane Smith said councillors should wait for results of a forensic audit before making any "knee-jerk reactions".

MOVING ON: Lismore City Council's outgoing general manager Gary Murphy, said he is grateful for the opportunity to work with the wonderful staff for seven years.
MOVING ON: Lismore City Council's outgoing general manager Gary Murphy, said he is grateful for the opportunity to work with the wonderful staff for seven years. Alison Paterson

Last week, council revealed it was facing "liquidity issues" with council its budget deficit likely to grow from $41 million to $89 million. The issue was referred to the OLG which is investigating the situation. However some councillors have indicated this figure is likely to be a lot higher.

At the council meeting, councillors moved all agenda items for this week's meeting to an extraordinary meeting on October 19 so they could dedicate the entire night to the issue of finances.

Cr Chris Holstein said the issue was "the most important the council has ever had to deal with".

A last minute confidential item from Cr Matthews around "staffing matters" has also been delayed until next week. It is unknown whether the issue was around Mr Murphy, other senior staff or general staffing numbers at council.

Cr Best called for the "monumental" item to be deferred to give councillors a chance to talk about it.

"It's a monumental issue that's going to change the future of this council. If I could explain this to the public, they would be seething," he said.

Cr Matthews said she sent the item to councillors late to prevent the information being leaked to the public. She said all staffing issues had to be debated in confidential, under the Local Government Act.

When the item was deferred to the next meeting, Cr Matthews said "I am not convinced it won't make it to the media by the end of this meeting. I am fearful of what will come of this and the circus we will encounter."



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