Campaspe interim CEO addresses environment at previous employer

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Moving on to better things: Campaspe Shire Council chief executive Tim Tamlin said the South Gippsland Shire Council became a “toxic environment” to work in when personal agendas got in the way. Photo by Contributed

New Campaspe Shire Council interim chief executive Tim Tamlin addressed his time at the South Gippsland Shire Council, saying it became a “toxic environment”.

Mr Tamlin worked as chief executive at the South Gippsland Shire Council for nearly 10 years, during which there were allegations of bullying, harassment and discord between councillors who were elected in 2016.

Such allegations then resulted in the resignation of six councillors and a subsequent commission of inquiry, which started on May 21, 2019.

Mr Tamlin said it was only near the end of the term (2018-2019) that problems began to arise within the council.

“There were three groups of councillors and in that third group there were some individuals who resigned because of the way they were treated by their fellow councillors,” he said.

“It was really toxic.”

Although he was not dismissed with the rest of the council, Mr Tamlin’s contract was not renewed which led to various news publications stating that he had been “dumped” by the council.

“At the time, my contract was up for renewal and I asked to be reappointed, but it was decided that a new direction was needed by way of change in leadership and that’s where the term ‘dumped’ came from,” he said.

“It was a decision that I completely understood and respected, but I still made the decision to stay on until the end of my contract.

“Then the entire council ended up being dismissed the day before my contract ended anyway.”

Mr Tamlin said the council was dismissed as a whole unit because at that time, you could not just dismiss an individual councillor.

“You would have to get rid of the whole council, if there was an issue and that's why it all went on for so long,” he said.

“It's not politically good to get rid of an entire group of people who were elected by the community. That is always the last resort.”

Mr Tamlin said he felt disappointed when he found out he was not going to be reappointed.

“It actually took me a number of months to get over it,” he said.

“I had been there 10 years, it was like my home. It felt like I was saying goodbye to family, which was really tough.”

When asked whether the situation had had a poor reflection on himself and the councillors, Mr Tamlin said it had.

“It’s had a poor reflection on all of us, across the board,” he said.

In terms of what triggered the conflicts within council, Mr Tamlin said there were too many personal agendas.

“There were people bringing their own agendas to the table, rather than the community agenda and that's when everything really fell apart,” he said.

“We had a couple of people that were really keen to pursue their own property developments, which went against the community planning schemes and they were relentless in trying to get those plans changed, but it didn’t happen.”

As to how Mr Tamlin managed a team that was so embroiled in controversy, he said he tried to support the staff as best he could.

“It was difficult. When you go to work, you're there to do a job and you’ve got to get rid of your ego because it’s about supporting others,” he said.

“That’s the way that I handled it, I tried to ensure my staff were looked after and that we were united as a team.”

After finishing his term at South Gippsland, Mr Tamlin then went back to the private sector for a while before he was asked to fill in as an interim chief executive at the Kingston City Council.

Following his stint at Kingston City Council, he was then asked to be interim chief executive at Campaspe Shire Council.

Mr Tamlin said he agreed to taking on the role at Campaspe Shire because working in local government with the community at the grassroots level was what he loved to do.

“Campaspe Shire said they needed someone who was experienced and who could guide the staff, help the councillors, settle things down and just keep the boat going in the right direction until they find a replacement,” he said.

As to what he has taken away from his experience at South Gippsland Shire, Mr Tamlin said he realised the strength of a community.

“The community saw it all and they really stepped up to reappoint a new group of councillors,” he said.

During his time at Campaspe Shire, Mr Tamlin hopes to achieve a strong foundation for the next chief executive by spending time with the councillors to review the community vision and discuss all the things that they could be doing better.

Mr Tamlin encouraged anyone with significant community concerns to get in contact with him on 1300 666 535.