Published on 13 March 2019Summary of Special Council Meetings regarding the Chief Executive Officer
The Town of Cambridge conducted a series of special Council meetings during 2018 in relation the suspension and then dismissal of the Chief Executive Office, Mr Jason Buckley.
The Special Council meeting on 13 November 2018, Council resolved by an absolute majority, to summarily dismiss the then CEO Mr Buckley pursuant to the terms of his contract of employment.
This decision followed an independent investigation into a range of serious governance failures at the Town, conducted by legal firm Hall & Wilcox, and subsequent internal investigations following the suspension of the CEO which revealed additional serious failures.
The following is a summary of the chronology of the outcomes and decisions of 2018.
7 February 2018: The Town authorises lawyers Hall & Wilcox to conduct an investigation into planning non-conformance with widespread implications, and directs the CEO to provide information to Hall & Wilcox.
22 February 2018: CEO advised he would not be complying with the Council direction to provide documents to the lawyers appointed by the Town to conduct investigation until Council had considered Cr Powell’s revocation motion.
23 February 2018: CEO directed to comply with the lawful direction given to him.
6 April 2018 CEO notified of Special Council meeting and motion to expand investigation and possibly suspend him.
9 April 2018 CEO: commenced personal leave. CEO suspended.
16 April 2018: Show cause letter provided to CEO. CEO indicated he was not in a position to respond due to personal leave.
19 April 2018: Town requested report from Mr Buckley’s general practitioner regarding his fitness to participate in the show cause while on personal leave.
1 May 2018: Town requested Mr Buckley attend independent medical review to ascertain fitness to answer show cause process.
3 May 2018: Town was advised by Mr Milward, Mr Buckley’s legal representative, that they disagreed with Town’s ability to invoke contractual clause allowing medical review of CEO and was invoking contract dispute.
15 May 2018: Town authorised Hall & Wilcox to brief senior counsel (Marcus Solomon SC) to provide legal advice as to whether the Council was able to engage lawyers to provide independent legal advice.
14 June 2018: Hall & Wilcox investigation report was received and distributed to the Minister for Local Government and the Department of Local Government. Town authorised the Mayor to negotiate a mutually agreed separation subject to conditions determined by Council.
21 June 2018: Town receives legal advice from senior counsel (Marcus Solomon SC) which supported the Council’s ability to obtain independent legal advice itself.
26 June 2018: Mediation with Mr Buckley in Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission (WAIRC), and offer made to settle matter up to limit specified by Council decision. Settlement could not be reached.
7 September 2018: Expanded show cause letter given to Mr Buckley.
12 Sept 2018: Decision from Commissioner Matthews in WAIRC that Mr Buckley could be independently medically reviewed under his employment contract.
20 September 2018: Following decision by WAIRC, Council agrees to show cause process timeline.
22 October 2018: Mr Buckley provided response to show cause letter.
13 November 2018: Council meets and deliberates on all information before it. Cr Nelson proposed extra Option of Independent arbitration- Negotiated outcome with payment of up to 8 months' salary but this was not agreed to by the Council. Mr Buckley was subsequently summarily dismissed by absolute majority decision of the Council.
The CEO had been suspended on 9 April 2018 and requested to respond to a “show cause” notice issued on 16 April 2018. A revised “show cause” notice expanding on matters was then issued on 7 September 2018.
During this period, the Town attempted in good faith on several occasions to settle on a confidential basis with Mr Buckley, however no agreed position could be met. The WAIRC subsequently confirmed the Council’s contractual right to have Mr Buckley medically assessed. Between the 9 April 2018 and 13 November 2018, the deliberations of Council, all correspondence and legal advice relating to Mr Buckley were kept confidential to avoid any prejudice to the ongoing process or Mr Buckley.
Council acted properly to protect current employee reputations and ensure equitable treatment for all parties. The Town took appropriate legal advice during this period. For the sake of clarity, all legal advice received in or in connection with the employment of Mr Buckley or the ending of his employment is confidential and subject to legal professional privilege. Dealing with such a high-profile employment matter in such a careful and respectful manner, made it impossible for Council and Elected Members to respond meaningfully to public demands for more information.
A very regrettable consequence was our Ratepayers had no opportunity to be fully aware of the depth and seriousness of the issues involved, the rigour with which the matters were addressed and the substantive reasons behind the Council decisions. In circumstances where legal proceedings have been threatened by Mr Buckley as a result of his termination, the Town is unable to release any further information at this time.