Document 17927

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MR D.W.L. RENTON assisted the Inquiry
MR P.G. McGOWAN represented G. Delle Donne
MS M.G. SARACENI represented B. Mason
MR P.J. URQUHART represented G. Barry
Merrill Corporation Australia
DACOMBE, MARK OSMOND recalled on former affirmation:
Inquiry into the City of Canning,
Dr Kendall presiding.
Thank you.
Morning, Mr McGowan, I understand you have some comments?
Yes, thank you, Inquirer. I should have
made this point yesterday. I’d like to publicly express my
appreciation to your staff who provided great assistance to
Mr Stokes and I in helping to reconcile documents that we
have with the numbers in the TRIM system. I note in
particular we had an email from Ms Rafferty, I think, as
late as quarter past midnight on Monday night, so our
sincere appreciation for that.
Thank you.
And the other small point is, reviewing the
transcript this morning, there is an outstanding typo at
page 1,211 on the second line. It’s amazing what a change
of one letter can do. Passage that I was putting to
Mr Dacombe involved the proposition:
Why didn’t you go to the Mayor or even to the Council
and say, ‘Look, sorry about this’ - what I put to him was, “Got a bit of a rogue here”, but
it’s typed as:
‘Got a bit of rouge here.’
Many things I put to Mr Dacombe, but not that.
Thank you.
I note that, and much
Ms Saraceni, your witness, thank you.
Thank you.
Mr Dacombe, I am appearing on behalf of the Deputy Mayor,
Mr Mason. What I’d like to do is to start with - just to
put an analogy to you and see if you accept this, because
it’s something I’m going to come back to during the course
of the questioning. I expect I’ll be about half a day
today with you - that’s okay. Just in relation to your
role at Canning and what you brought to the role, and
particularly in relation to the changed management and that
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whole process of Refocus, that’s what I’m going to talk to
you about. And I’d like to put to you and see whether you
accept this as an analogy: that Refocus was your baby, I
think you said yesterday. Was that correct? Or some part
of the - your evidence?---I - I certainly - I owned it.
Whether it was my baby or not, I’m not sure whether I used
that word, but - - Well, for purposes - today that’s what I’d like to take you
to, because I - I - I found out that you’re a man who likes
art house movies, you’re into equal opportunity, and
perhaps if - and I’d like just to stretch that a little bit
further. So Refocus is your baby. You come into an
organisation and there’s a need for change. People want
change, correct?---Yes. Yes.
And particularly the people - the top, Council, want a
So if we view Council as dad, the father figure, and they
brought you in, Mr Dacombe, and you are the mother figure,
if you don’t have a problem with that. Still following
me?---I’m still following you.
Excellent. So you have a mother figure and a father
figure, and they have a family already, and the family of
the staff at Canning and the other stakeholders at Canning,
yes?---(No audible answer).
And part of the discussion and looking forward into the
future, mum and dad decide that they want another child,
and they try and they realise they can’t have the child
naturally so they need IVF. That child will grow up to be
Refocus, and, in fact, what they do is they bring in
external people, all the specialists to help the IVF
process, yes? All the external consultants that were
brought in to assist with Refocus, and then it took, and
the pregnancy started. How am I going with that,
Mr Dacombe?---Well, it’s probably not an analogy that I
would use, but - - No, but one I’m using?--- - - - but I’m happy for - - Do you think that’s fair so far?---If we start with the
mother and father, the risk - well, that’s - - Okay, yes?---I understand what you’re saying.
Excellent. All right. I will come back to that analogy
from time to time, but let’s just say that that’s what’s
happening there. Now, then you are brought in as the CEO
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of City of Canning. You have certain qualities that you
bring to the role, and that’s why you’ve been engaged, as
you understand it, correct?---That’s right.
And as I understand it - that your strengths that you have
sold yourself on is that you have extensive senior
leadership and management in the public sector?---That’s
Correct? You have - proven track record in working with
elected officials, local and central?---That’s right.
And I won’t read all of them, but just a few of them. You
have strong networking and relationship management skills
across and within organisations?---That’s right.
Have sound qualifications in public management, and I think
you’ve got a tertiary degree from the University of
Wellington to that effect, correct?---That’s right, yes.
And you have strongly strategic - with excellent conceptual
and analytical skills?---Yes.
And then also impeccable standards of personal and
professional ethics?---Yes.
Correct? And, in fact, you also say that you have skills
in organisation, leadership and management - - - ?---That’s
- - - advising elected Councils and Ministers?---Yeah.
Advocacy and negotiation?---Mm hmm.
Management of policy development, advice and
Stakeholder management and engagement?---Yes.
Strategic planning?---Yes.
Corporate planning?---Yes (indistinct).
Organisational restructure and change management?---Yeah.
You know that I’ve got this from the Localise CV that you
have?---This - as I say, I’ve been around a long time,
Ms Saraceni.
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Well, I wasn’t going to comment on - on - on age. I was
doing the - the gender. Operations management and
review?---That’s right.
Skills in financial management and executive
Correct? So you come to the City of Canning with all of
those skills. You are embraced by the Council and you
start what you need to do. Now, what's not very clear to
me, and I've sat through most of the evidence, as you know,
is the first year that you were there, before Refocus
actually took off?---Yes.
So that's going back to my analogy, of the time that
were visiting the specialists and getting the advice
needed to - to fall pregnant, let's say. So - I - I
you it would work, Mr Dacombe. So you - you - you - you're there for about a year. Now, what is it in
year that you do? You do some talking to staff, do
you?---What is it that I do during that year?
Well, are you talking to staff?
start - - -?---Talking - - -
you do
You - you
- - - you're the new CEO. You go down and talk to
staff?---Talk to staff, talking to - talking to Council.
Well, before - can we just - bit by bit - - -?---Sorry.
You're talking to staff?---Yes.
And in relation to talking to staffing, you said yesterday
about 600 fulltime equivalents?---Yes.
How many roughly of those staff would you know the names
of? Not necessarily day one, but towards - towards the end
of your tenure there?---I would know probably most of them
in the sort of the administration building by name. Not
necessarily evenly across the divisions. There were some
divisions that I had more contact with than others.
Outside of - outside of that area I would know the senior
people in the works area by name and I would know the - or
would have known the senior people in the aged care by
name. Yes.
And you also went round and visited the various sites with
the Mayor on some occasions. Is that correct?---Initially,
the Mayor and I did a tour of pretty well all of the
locations that had staff.
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And you also did a check to see what sort of documents were
in existence, HR type documents were in existence in the
organisation?---I - I spent time with the senior people in
each of the areas, getting a fix basically on their view of
the organisation.
And you did this on a one-on-one basis?---On a one-on-one
basis but also as a group.
You took notes when you went round and spoke to these
people?---No. It was very informal.
Informal. And did you also get taken to meet people within
WALGA, for example?---Um - - You're new to Western Australia. You're from New Zealand,
so you don't necessarily know people, do you, or did you
only know - - -?---No.
- - - people from - - -?---I'm - I'm just thinking.
All right?---We're recalling back nearly five years now so
I'm just recalling back to - my initial focus was
internally but at an early stage, I met - met through probably initially for a zone meeting, certain staff of
WALGA. And then - I can't put a date on this, but again,
within that first year, I had - I had a sort of coffee,
might even have been a lunch meeting with the then
president of WALGA, the Deputy Chief Executive and I think
one other. So, yep - - And - - -?--- - - - at an early stage.
And what about the Department of Local Government? Were
you also introduced to people within the department?---I
said that myself and the main contact - I had two main
contacts. At that stage, they had put in place, I think, a
new executive and one of those people, Wendy Murray, had
oversight of what was starting to shape up as a reform
agenda for Local Government, so I made a point of making
myself known to her, what my background was and particular
skills and - in an area that she was looking at at that
And that was the work that you'd done with the Government
in - in New Zealand?---That was actually work related to to the commercialisation of aspects of Council operations
that I'd certainly done in New Zealand.
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And who were the names of the people that you had dealings
with, other than that lady at the department?---The other
senior person there who I met via a society - by, sorry, a
Local Government Manager's Association function was another
senior manager called Barry Jolly(?). Then over time I met
other staff of the department through various - - And that lady Jenny, is that her name?---Jenny Law.
So you - you - you - you had dealings with her at the
time?---I - yes. But early dealings with - with her were
related around sort of training type activities they
provided for elected members.
And in relation to your consultations with all these
people, I think your evidence has been that you had a
feeling that there was a need to change, that things could
be done better. There was a lot of good fiscal management
but things were done on the smell of an oily rag. I think
at the time - - -?---Sorry, we're talking about Canning
Sorry, going back to Canning. Would that be the - the
general view that you'd formed as a result of speaking to
all these people?---Yes.
And I think there was a feeling also that the immediate
past Mayor was held in high regard and the immediate past
CEO, and that was the golden era. That was the feeling
that you got at the time?---That - that was certainly
expressed to me by some staff.
All right. Now, moving forward, I'd just like to ask you
some questions and I'd like to draw a line in the sand.
When we - the period before November 2010, when you have
the new executive team, let's say, “AD”, “after Dacombe”.
Yes. The other one, before Dacombe and his changes. Now,
to start with, the period of time up to and before the new
executive starting, you had, I think, four people who were
already in the organisation at the time you joined, is that
correct?---Four executive members. Yes.
And one of those executives was Andrew Sharpe?---Yes.
And is it also correct that you found that because he'd
been an Acting CEO, he had some corporate knowledge, he had
finance, perhaps a strength that yours is not as strong as
his, and that you wanted to keep him in the organisation.
Would that be a summary?---Yes, he - he also had - he
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had - coupled with that, he had a long - excuse me - a long
history with the organisation.
And he had the trust of the staff, didn't he?---Pardon?
He had the trust of the staff?---I believe so, yes.
So then you have other executives, and who is the next one
that was there at the time you started?---In - in the
regulatory services area was Mr Gavin Ponton.
And your relationship with Mr Ponton?---Was - was quite was quite cordial.
But there were huge issues in that area, weren't
there?---There were big issues in that area.
And that's when you brought in - at some later stage, you
brought in Charles Johnson to - to review that area,
correct?---That's correct.
This is where we go back to my analogy and start bringing
in some experts to - to consult. The next
executive?---Mr Paul Merlo in the area of community
services. Those titles aren't correct, but that was the
No, that's fine, yes. And Mr Paul Merlo, you formed a view
that perhaps he wasn't the right person to take the changes
that you were looking at moving forward, is that
correct?---Well, he was a very competent and respected
manager of that area, but - - I'm not suggesting otherwise, but you'd formed the
view - - -?---No, I'm being very clear to say that.
Yes?---Because, I mean, this is a public record and - and I
did hold that view quite strongly. But I did form the view
that he didn't have the skills necessary to take the level
of performance in those areas to the next level.
And the last person?---The last person was in an acting
role, was - in the engineering and technical services area
was Mr Steve Apple who was the Parts Manager, and he'd
been - he'd taken on the acting role and he'd had it for
nearly a year, I think.
And after that gentleman, who next filled that role of
engineering?---Mr Charles Sullivan who came in from the
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And in relation to this period before you have the
hand-picked executives, the ones that - other than
Mr Sullivan, the ones that you found when you first
arrived, Mr Sharpe was the only one that survived in the
executive role, correct?---That's right.
And in fact, even Mr Sullivan started late, but he didn't
survive very long, did he?---He survived about a year I
So if we come up towards the November 2010 date when you
have your handpicked executives on board, of the ones that
were there originally and Mr Sullivan who was brought in
before the Refocus was up and running was - only one,
Mr Sharpe, remained?---Yes, that's right.
And in fact - yes?---I was just going to add - no. I
can - no. I was just going to add a comment to that
regarding the other two, but that wasn't your question.
No. And in fact the comments that you've been very careful
to make now in your first report on Refocus, you were a
little bit more strident, weren't you, about your feelings
in relation to the adequacy of some of those executives to
continue in the roles we had?---I - I - strident, I
probably wouldn't use that word, but I was certainly very
clear - I was certainly very clear on the advice that I
gave, yes. Sorry, I can't remember the words so
maybe - - All right. Well if I could perhaps just - I'll put some
things to you, and I'm looking at a document, July 2010, a
Refocus document - - -?---Yeah.
- - - that you have prepared?---Yes.
I think you did that in conjunction with
Mr Richardson?---That's right.
And you start at some point saying:
Since taking up my appointment in February '09, I've
got to know the organisation, it's history and
Do you recall that?---Yes.
Sorry, Ms Saraceni, do I have that - do we
have that document? Is that numbered or - - -
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Just so I have the reference number?
I don't have - sorry, I do.
COC number, does that assist?
That's fine, yes.
This is a
2083, Inquirer.
Okay, thank you.
Go ahead, thank you.
So it says - so it continues - so you start
in February '09:
I've got to know the organisation, it's history and
culture, it's strengths and weaknesses, it's
achievements and aspirations.
I have also carefully listened to the elected Council
and its vision for Canning. I am not confident that
it is time to refocus the organisation on our
mission, ‘Above all, service.’
Thanks to all of you for your conversations with me
over the last 12 months. I would also acknowledge
the contribution of Mike Richardson helping me
clarify and shape my proposals.
And that's what you said before, that he was involved in
it. But then you go on to say:
We also have some gaps in our capability, and we have
changes to make.
You go on and say that:
To achieve certain outcomes, a City Council must be
and seen to be forward thinking, innovative and
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subtle one.
The balance we need to strike is a
Those comments there?
And you go on and say:
It is fundamental therefore as a staff organisation,
we assist the Council to put in place a policy
framework that helps attract appropriate development
and avoids destructive development.
And you say:
Given the speed of change in contemporary society,
this is not a one-off task but an ongoing one. It
begins with reviewing our town planning scheme on a
fast track timetable.
Now, this is July 2010, this document?---Yes.
So you'd been there about 17 months?---Yes.
And you have identified that the town planning scheme as at
that date needed to be attended to, and on a fast-track
timetable. Correct?---Yes, yes.
And in fact you made that - you arrived at that conclusion
even before you put it in this document, didn't
How early on did you arrive at the conclusion that the town
planning scheme needed to be updated?---I couldn't pinpoint
it, but it was certainly within the first year.
At the time that you left the organisation, had it been
In relation to Refocus, there are - seemed to be
three limbs to it; “Shaping change, service excellence and
building trust”?---Yes.
You say underneath, “Service excellence”:
I want to re-emphasise the fundamental accountability
relationships on which Local Government is based.
The Council is accountable to the community, more
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specifically to electors. The staff organisation,
through me, is accountable to the Council. To put
this differently, the Council is elected to serve and
provide leadership to the community. We are
appointed to serve the Council and provide advice in
carrying this out. We are servants.
Do you remember saying that?---Yes.
That did not go down - that message about being servants
did not go down well with the staff at Canning, did
it?---Possibly not, I don't know the answer to that.
But you have a sense that it didn't go down well?---Well,
it was certainly a different way of - it was a way of
thinking about our role that - that was not consistent with
the way they operated at that point.
I - - -?---So I was actually making a very strong point was
that our role was to serve the Council.
I don't have a difficulty with that, but is it your
perception that staff were not happy with being viewed as
servants to provide a service to the Council?---That's
quite possible.
And you go on and say:
Secondly, I want to re-emphasise the nature of being
a servant and of providing service.
So you're really hammering it in:
At its root, it is about using one's skills to meet
the needs of the community that is being served.
I want to be absolutely clear that we need to be
listening and responsive to the community.
Then in relation to building trust, you say:
Some of you may not be used to seeing this expressed
so plainly, but that in itself illustrates part of
the problem. A lack of transparency and an apparent
pursuit of alternative agendas.
Do you recall that?---Yes.
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Then you talk about a balance between leadership and
engagement. Your comment is:
That the organisation is overly hierarchical and
therefore underutilising the talent it has available.
But then you do comment that:
There's a role for leadership, for making a decision,
being accountable for it, and getting on with it.
?---Mm hmm.
And that's your leadership style isn't it,
Mr Dacombe?---That's the approach I take.
And it's the approach you took throughout your term at City
of Canning?---That's correct.
You go on and say:
I know that some of you will welcome our new
directions, others will not.
?---Mm hmm.
And, in fact, as time progressed the - the ones that did
not agree or did not welcome the change became louder and
You go on to say:
I feel it is important to explain this so as to
clarify the style of management you should expect
from me and the professionalism I expect from you.
Such clarity around expectations is one of the keys
to building trust.
And then you go on and talk about the need for change.
Now, would you accept that when you are introducing change
into an organisation, and I say this to you as a
professional, given your qualifications and your
experience, that there are certain things you need to do,
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and particularly in relation to change readiness there are
a couple of dimensions in relation to that, aren’t there,
Which - when you want to bring change into - organisation,
and you’re looking at things such as discrepancy. Do
employees believe the change is required to close the gap
between current and preferred future states? That be one
of the elements that you focus on?---Yeah.
And also appropriateness, employees understanding why
specific-change strategy is - best way to address the
discrepancy. Do you accept that’s the second
element?---Sorry, can you - I didn’t hear that.
So you’ve got discrepancy first?---Yes.
The second one is appropriateness, and I’m sure you know
where this comes from, Mr Dacombe, straight from your
business?---Mm hmm.
Second one is appropriateness, employees to understand why
specific-change strategy is - best way to address a
The third thing you say is needed is efficacy:
Have confidence in organisations in themselves to
successfully change. Otherwise bury their head in
the sand.
The fourth element you say - headed “Valence”:
What’s in it for me? People understand understandably resist change that threatens their
And the last one, “Principal support”:
Visible leadership support is essential. Employees
need to see consistent evidence that leaders are
committed to change.
So you
they -
would agree that they are the
readiness when you go into an
you start bringing about some
they are certainly - they are
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five dimensions organisation and
change?---Well, they certainly key factors
you would expect to - to have in play. Now, I’m not - I’m
saying that there’ll be different degrees in different
organisations that you go in to; it’s simply that.
Sorry, I should say, this business you have with your wife,
is this more your area or your wife’s area?---Change - the
- the change management?
Yes?---In terms of - in terms of the - in terms of the
direct experience, it’s mine.
All right.
she - - -
And then you also talk about - - - ?---But
Sorry?---- - - she has skills as well, and that particular
paper that you’re talking about was written by one of our
senior consultants. Just to be clear, there’s a team in
Yes, I’m - I’m aware of that, but you accept that they are
the elements of - - -?---Yes.
- - - change management. And in relation to leading
change, you also talk about assisting organisations to
diagnose and address challenges and institute change, and
you have a picture, cogs and a wheel, measurements,
alignment and inspiring?---Mm hmm.
Now, is that what you were trying to do at the City of
Canning through the Refocus program?---The - there were
two key things that I had in view. One was addressing what
were very clear deficiencies in the way in which we were
operating, and one was positioning the Council from a
strategic point of view to be a leader in 21st century
Local Government with a clear understanding that the issue
on the horizon was reform. It was both structural reform,
but it was also reform in the way in which Councils plan
and relate to their communities, the integrated planning
and reporting framework. So - - Mr Dacombe, with - with all this change you’ve got to sell
it to the staff. They’ve got to come with you. Is that
correct? You - you can’t just impose change from the top
without having the ground roots (indistinct)?---Well, our our - our assessment - - So would you accept that proposition that change really for it to be successful you need to bring the people with
you?---You do.
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Now, in this document, the Refocus document, you actually
talk about the need for change. Now, as I understand you
had some workshops, some road shows that you did, where you
were selling Refocus to staff. We’ll leave Council for
just a moment, but you’re selling Refocus to staff. Is
that correct?---Um - - There were about two or three rounds of workshops?---That’s
And part of the message, as I understand it, that you were
giving to staff, as you’ve said in this document, the need
for change - you’ve talked about - you’ve had discussions
with the Mayor and Councillors, all this work that you were
doing in that first year.
I’ve made clear to you - talking to staff:
- that they are the Council and our role is to assist
them. You might have gathered that it is one of my
observations that this fundamental model seems not to
be well understood.
That was a very strong, strident statement that you made,
basically telling off the staff?---Yes.
That did not go down well, did it, Mr Dacombe?---When when you say it did not go down well - - Well, did they like being criticised?--- - - - I mean, no,
not - - They appreciate being criticised?--- - - - obviously there
were a number of staff that - this was challenging the
established order and they did not accept what I - say.
And, in fact, Mike Richardson, when he was the consultant
brought in to assist, he undertook a survey of the
organisation?---We started with a survey, yes.
And I think there was something like 84 questions that were
put to staff?---Something like that.
And the end result of that survey was that there was a lot
that needed to be done?
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You talk about a management style that you found - the time
that was strongly hierarchical, albeit benevolent,
Then you go on to say that the organisational model that’s
- that was then in place at Canning had weaknesses, and
then you go and list weaknesses:
Pride and professionalism can become a barrier.
Recall that?---Yes.
Belief in hierarchy fosters a reluctance to delegate
decisions. Poor communication horizontally between
teams and a tendency to blame-shift.
A focus on internal systems and standards becomes the
enemy of customer focus.
Generally, innovation - flexibility are lacking.
?---Mm hmm.
Financial prudence becomes elevated to such a virtue
that it becomes a vice.
?---Mm hmm.
And accommodating change reflecting changing
opportunities are needs that are external and
planning for the future all tend to take a back seat.
You accept that that was the view that you had at the
time?---Yeah, absolutely.
The weaknesses in the organisation?---Mm hmm.
And you say:
These are generalisations. I’m not aware of anyone
who displays all these characteristics. However, I
have observed these traits enough to believe that the
fundamental culture of the organisation encourages
behaviour along these lines. My intention is not to
be critical of individuals. I believe that people in
this organisation are talented and committed to their
work. I’m saying that our culture has to change.
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And then you set out the immediate steps that you were
going to take:
The culture militates against that (indistinct)
consistently producing excellence for elected members
and the community, so I intend that we adopt some new
directions and change our culture. This will take
time, but we must recognise and address the barriers
to achieving our full potential. One of those
barriers is the current structure at senior executive
level is not fit to take forward the refocussed
Now, the change-readiness matters that I just took - took
you through before, what thought did you give to whether
the organisation and the people within it were in a state
such that they were ready to accept change, to embrace
change?---I think the climate or the staff survey that you
referred to - my recollection would be that - that there
was certainly a strong indication that staff were pretty
comfortable in their lot, and the conclusion that I came to
after some - quite some reflection and discussion was that
we needed to - I needed to make a very clear statement
about where I was going, which you’ve just read to us. And
in terms of an organisation that was ready for that, that they - they weren’t ready for that. We knew they weren’t
ready for that, and so what needed to be put in place was a
very clear and upfront acknowledgement, because there was a
lot of denial, particularly around the relationship stuff
with - and our role with the elected members, and
essentially I was drawing a line in the sand and saying
that this will stop. This is the way we’re going to go.
You’re really redirecting the organisation, aren’t
And this whole process, you've done it before in New
Zealand, the redirecting?---And - and - and have done it
differently. I've done it, depending on - depending on the
nature of the organisation and where it's at.
And - - -?---So - sorry.
Sorry?---You're probably going to come to it so I'll stop
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Merrill Corporation Australia
Then you also talk about the role of managers and the fact
that there needs to be a change in the role of managers so
that they take greater accountability for the performance
of their units?---That's right.
I'm expecting that managers will take on some tasks
currently undertaken by executives and make a range
of decisions that they currently refer to executives.
Do you recall that?---Yep.
And you want managers to delegate parts of their current
workload to their staff and you want to shift
decision-making as close as possible to the front line of
the organisation. Yes?---Yes.
While each manager will have a clear line to a
particular executive for performance management
purposes, in many cases, he or she will be engaging
with a different executive depending on the nature of
an issue.
Now, with all these changes that you were making to
people's contracts, their contractual arrangements, what
they did or didn't have to do, position descriptions,
because you go on and talk about position descriptions,
value-based - job value statements that you were going to
introduce, what input did you seek from the HR manager
before you put pen to paper along these lines?---In terms
of that document there, none of the executives or the HR
Manager had input into that document.
Now, the HR Manager at the time was who?---Suzanne
Now, you'd appreciate, wouldn't you, that unilateral
changes can't be made to a person's employment
contract?---I'm not sure that I'm talking - - You appreciate that?---Yes.
And you hadn't consulted with HR about these changes before
this happened?---No.
So when you're talking about shifting workloads,
50 per cent of the executive managers' time, I think you
say, is to do their work in managing their team, and
50 per cent is strategic, looking forward, all of that, was
any consideration given by you to workloads in relation to
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Merrill Corporation Australia
what they were doing and whether they could take this on,
or not, or were you only interested in their capacity,
their - their mental capacity to - to deal with these
things?---The - the lead up to that, there was structured
or there were structured interviews conducted by Mike
Richardson with the executive members and also with the excuse me - with the managers. Now, at the stage that
you're talking about there, I didn't see necessarily,
although obviously a potential issue down the road, but
necessarily we were talking about changes in contractual
Well, a job description is - - -?---Well, I - - - - - part of a contract?---In terms of the way we wrote
the - the executive job descriptions, certainly. I think
the job descriptions for the managers, largely what I was
asking or suggesting needed to happen was that they fulfil
those, that they act as managers and, in fact, the
situation that was there when that was written was the
executive were operating pretty well as managers, at a
level of detail that was abnormal in an organisation that
size, and the managers were abdicating to the executives in
that role. So basically, what I was saying was that
executives needed to become executives, managers needed to
step up and become managers and that didn't necessarily
mean, although certainly, at the executive level, that did
because I changed that structure quite significantly; that
did require a rewrite of those job descriptions. And then
subsequently some of the management - well, I think there
were probably - there were some particular areas that we
focused in, where some of the management job descriptions
and contracts needed to be changed, for sure, but that was
further down the track.
All right. And then just moving on to these job value
statements that you talk about, did you - they were
introduced for the executive management. You say:
They'll be a combination of a traditional position
description and a performance agreement.
But you hadn't spoken to HR, correct?---Not at that point,
While each executive will have a broad overall focus
of responsibilities, job value statements will
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Merrill Corporation Australia
identify specific outcomes that they will be
achieving. These will be agreed with me on an annual
basis or more frequently if appropriate.
Correct?---Mm hmm.
So when in the - which month of the year had you set aside
to do these performance review or performance discussions,
discussions about how they're doing their work?---There was
a - are we talking about the new executive or the existing
Well, we're still on the old - the current
executive - - -?---There was a cycle - - - - - the ones that were there at the time?---There was a
cycle for the performance - - Okay. When - when was that because - sorry, when was
that?---Well, I think the - the program started soon after
the results of the financial year were known.
Yes. Because a performance review is often linked to a
salary review. Correct?---Often. Often - - Otherwise - - -?--- - - - that would - yeah. But in terms
of the year's result, that's a logical time to do it.
And when, at the City of Canning, were you getting these
results? So the end of the financial year is
30 June?---Yep.
So when after that, roughly, would you be looking at it?
When was HR - - -?---Well - - - - - getting involved?---- - - HR would be starting the
process soon after 30 June, getting everybody geared up to
do it.
And was there an end date by which these performance
reviews would be completed?---Well, the attempt was to do
it as quickly as possible. Often we found with, you know,
significant parts of the organisation workload mean that that there was some slippage, quite some slippage in that
timing from time to time.
But by September, that sort of time, it would be finished,
the process ought to be finished?---The - the 2010
performance reviews, for example, were actually reported to
the Council in February of 2011.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
I'm not suggesting reporting to Council but just the
performance reviews being done and people getting
told - - -?---They would be 80 or 90 per cent done by
September/October, I would have thought - - Right?--- - - - and so there's - that that gets to get over
the - - All right. 80 or 90 per cent done by September. Of those
performance reviews, how many would you do? The 11 persons
that were directly answerable to you?---Who - whoever was
answerable to me, yes.
Well, at the start of you being there, probably about
November 2010, there were about 11 people directly
answerable to you, I think you looked at yesterday,
with - - -?---Mm.
Yes. Roughly.
with that.
I think there was - - -?---Yep.
I'm happy
- - - one person you weren't quite sure with?---I don't
know the number of that, yep.
So in 2009, come 30 June and September '09 - - -?---Mm.
- - - you've only been there at the organisation about six
The performance reviews of staff need to be undertaken.
With whom, if anyone, did you undertake performance reviews
in '09?---Well, I can't recall the detail of that.
I'm not asking for detail.
You - - -?---No, I can't - - -
You were new to the job?---Yes.
It's time to do performance reviews. I imagine the
HR Manager came to you and said - - -?---Yes.
- - - I need to do these things?---Yes.
Were you in control of your diary or did you have a
secretary in control of your diary? Did the HR Manager
organise that for you, all the appointments that you would
need?---Look, no, I can't recall.
Did you do the performance reviews of the 11 people that
were directly answerable to you in 2009, your first
year?---I cannot recall that.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
Well, more likely yes or more likely no?
feeling - - -?---Well, I was - - -
Or do you have a
- - - one way or the other or - - -?---No. It is - it is
possible - it is possible that, having only been there a
few months, I decided to delay that, but I cannot be
certain of that.
Now, the - the personnel files of all these people, who
kept the personnel files of the executives?---HR.
So that - there'd be documents there to
support - - -?---They would be - - - - - it one way or the other?---They would be there.
All right.
2010 - - -?---Yes.
- - - so you're there a year and a half by that
time - - -?---Yep.
- - - between June and September 2010, when it's time to do
performance reviews - - -?---Yep.
- - - of the 11 people or so that were directly answerable
to you, do you do those performance reviews in 2010?---I
believe so.
And who, if anyone, helped you with those performance
reviews? Do you have HR with you in the meetings?---No.
So - - -?---The performance discussion was between me and
the individual. There might have been one exception where
I did have an HR person involved and that was over one of
the more junior staff who, you know, very obviously it
would be much less threatening to meet the Chief Executive
with an HR Adviser.
Of course. Now, in these conversations that you were
having with those directly answerable to you, is that when
you told Paul Merlo that his job as an executive was not
going to continue under the new structure?---No. I would
have had that discussion separate from our performance
review, for sure, and - and I was very keen to decouple
what I was doing with the review of the organisation from
their performance and their existing roles.
But Paul you moved sideways and he looked after the
Leisureplex complex at Cannington, correct? His role
changed?---His role - his role changed, yes.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
And Mr Ponton didn’t survive, did he?---What I said, and I
think it said it in the document, that there was a role for
both of them in the organisation if they chose to take that
role. Now, Paul did choose to take that role. I can't
actually remember the detail of it, he - - Yes, we've done Paul?---Yes.
Mr Ponton did not?---The role that I wanted Gavin to do, he
decided that he didn’t want to do and so he was redundant.
All right.
Steve Atwell?---Steve Atwell was Parks Manager.
And so he stopped in his acting role and you had Charles
Sullivan?---That's right.
And what happened with Mr Sullivan?---Charles - Charles
stayed in the role of Executive Engineering and Technical
Until when?---Until he resigned in July.
These changes with executive managers, even in 2010, before
November 2010, that created some angst amongst this people in their areas?---Yes.
And I think your evidence has been previously that it was
very much a siloed organisation?---Yes.
And in relation to the engineering side of it, those
changes in relation to Mr Atwell and Mr Sullivan, that
created disharmony within that group?---Um - - As far as you know?---I know there wasn’t a comfortable
relationship there between the executive and his team.
And they blamed you for that, didn’t they?---Well, they may
very well have. I don't know.
Well, you're the one who made the decisions to make the
changes. They blamed you, Mr Dacombe, didn’t they?---the we're not talking about changes in the engineering area in
the context of the document that you're holding in your
hand. Charles Sullivan was employed in the vacant
executive role of Executive, Engineering and Technical
Services where Mr Atwell had been acting for a long period
of time and a former, much respected engineering manager,
Mr Silvio Trinca - - -
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Merrill Corporation Australia
Yes?---- - - had previously been there. So the - so the
Charles Sullivan entry into the organisation was not
initially associated with the Refocus work.
And what about the other executive?
other executives?
The other area?---The
Yes?---The new one?
No, no, still the old one.
more?---Um - - -
Wasn't there one left, one
Who was in charge of planning?---Pardon?
Who was in charge of planning?---That was Gavin Ponton.
Gavin Ponton. Now, if I could then take you to
Mr Johnson's review?---Yes.
In May 2011, he provided a report?---Yes.
And he also attended a counsel forum and you spoke to his
And his report looked only at review of Regulatory Services
Group?---That's right.
And I think he said at the forum - I've been told he said
something like "It's a basket case". "The planning
division in the City of Canning is a basket
case"?---Mm hmm.
Do you recall him saying that?---I - I vaguely recall him
saying that, yes.
And when Mr Johnson came in, he's one of these other
consultants, like an obstetrician et cetera, going back to
my analogy, you have a situation where he knew about
Refocus and he built in some comments of Refocus into his
report, correct?---Yes.
And in fact he has said that:
The review identified a number of significant issues
and challenges facing the City in terms of the
performance of its regulatory planning functions.
It is noted that these problems are long standing and
have affected the City's operational effectiveness
for many years.
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It is acknowledged that the Executive Management Team
and Council have identified these shortcomings and
are determined to make improvements in the way that
the Regulatory Services Group performs.
Correct? And you agreed with those findings in his
And in it he made 41 individual recommendations for
improvement?---Mm hmm.
Some of the changes were broken down into things that could
be done in the first six months after he issued his
report. Then there were things that could be done within
12 months and some things done within 18 months. Do you
recall that?---Yes.
And he spoke about a good governance framework in some of
the changes moving forward?---Yep.
He spoke about corporate records management?---Mm hmm.
Yes? And he looked at things that needed to be
So do I understand it correctly that as at May 2011 when
you have this report from Mr Johnson, you then have had
two separate consultants looking at - casting a microscope
over the organisation and saying, “These are all the things
that need to be done”, two separate people, correct?---Are
you talking about Mr Richardson and Mr Johnson?
Yes?---Different roles. Certainly the Richardson
assignment was a cross-organisational review for me.
Charles Johnson exercise - - -
Refocused?---Very much.
Now, at the time of this report of Mr Johnson, May 2011,
you've only been there for just over two years,
Now, given what you said to me earlier, I understood that
in the first year that you started at the City of Canning,
it was you who was going around and talking to people and
20/11/2013 10:49
Merrill Corporation Australia
working out what they were feeling, what they were hope what they were looking at, what they were hoping for and
things that were shortcomings?---Yes.
So if you'd done it in the first twelve months that you
were there, what was the need to have first Mr Richardson
do exactly that same exercise - I'll ask you that first.
If you've already done it, why Mr Richardson repeat what
you'd done?---Well, I had done it from my Chief Executive's
role in getting a knowledge and understanding of the
organisation for - in terms of my leadership of it. What I
wanted was an expert review of that, that would then form
the basis of this - to assist me to form the basis of the
steps that I needed to do to move forward.
So in the first twelve months or so that you were there and
you had formed a view as to what needed to be done, what,
if any, changes did you make yourself after your review of
the first twelve months or so?---The - the changes that I
made in the first twelve months were - just trying to think
the word to express it in - they were minor improvements
consistent with the indication that I'd had from Council
that they wanted a steady state for the first two year first year.
Give me some examples - give me some examples of those
minor improvements?---I think that - I think that we added
a very small number of staff to the regulatory area.
All right. So you increased staffing in one area and?---We
- well, we were working on systems to support that as well.
So who's “We”?---“We”, meaning me and the executive.
So you directed someone to do something in relation to it,
is that what you're saying?---Yes. There was a - there was
a small team working on the IT systems to support
particularly the regulatory area where - where we were
having - having issues.
What about things that were going up to Council, let's say
the agendas. Did you - you came in, you'd already worked
at a few Local Governments in New Zealand. You come in,
you look at the agendas, there were meetings every
fortnight, so you were looking at agendas very regularly.
What, if anything, did you do in relation to changing the
adequacy of those agendas in that first period?---In that
first period - in the first period I didn't make - I didn’t
make significant changes. That's what - what I'm saying.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
But changing the agenda items or making sure that reports
are done a particular way when included in agendas, that's
surely not a major change, is it?---Well, those - those
reports - those - sorry, I'm just trying to give you a
considered response here. The areas that - that there were
difficulties with in terms of the quality of the reports
were also represented in the areas, you know, regulatory,
for example. That was the main area where - where there
were difficulties. And there was definitely a question
there of staff capability. In terms of - - So weren't capable to do what they were meant to be
Some weren’t capable of doing what they were meant to be
doing?---Well, the report writing is a particular skill, I
think. And we - we were light in that area.
So, sorry, these were discussed at those briefings that you
had with the executives on the Thursday before the - when
settling the agenda items before the meeting - the Council
meeting on the Tuesday?---That's right.
And yet there was nothing that you or the executives
thought could be done in the short term to improve this
report writing?---I think the issue - there was a - there
was a real tension between the machine getting stuff
through on that fortnightly cycle and trying to maintain
reasonable turnaround times and what was needed to do to
substantially change the report writing. Now, I had also
had - let's just focus on the regulatory area. I had a
very clear view that there - that what was happening at
Canning was highly unusual, the level of detail and the
decisions - the level of decisions that were going to the
Council. Ultimately, that needed a structural change. So
we tried to make - - But wasn’t that - - -?---- - - we tried to make - - Sorry, Mr Dacombe?---Yes?
Wasn't part of the issue there that the town planning
scheme hadn't been updated, and that the approvals and
things were so out of date that that's why those things
were going up to Council which could have perhaps otherwise
been delegated down to someone else. Isn't that the
issue?---I think - I think you'll - I don't think that was
the issue.
20/11/2013 10:54
Merrill Corporation Australia
Part of the issue?---That may have been an element, but I
think the Johnson report itself indicated that a lot could
be delegated down even within the inadequate structural
And if we're talking about the reports, there was a
template that people were using or was everyone doing their
own thing vis-a-vis the reports?---No, in terms of the - in
terms of all the reports, there were generally - not
generally, there were templates depending on you know,
which part of the organisation it was for.
So it wouldn't have been very difficult to make changes to
the template and to tell people that in future, reports
should be done as per the new template. The Dacombe
version 2010 of the - - -?---Okay, well let's stick to the
regulatory area; that would have been highly difficult,
because - - Why?---Because the elected members were very much married
to that template.
Mr Dacombe, you are the CEO, you are the boss, you control
and direct the staff beneath you, all of them; 600 fulltime
equivalents, it was up to you to impose - I think that's
what you said your leadership style was - impose, make a
decision, impose it, hold people accountable and get on
with it?---Yes.
Well, why wasn't that done?---No, in terms of
the - explaining to you, again focusing on the regulatory
area and the subsequent experience played out in this way.
The Council was - did not want a lot of change. Sure, they
wanted - they wanted better information, they wanted more
reliability of the information, they didn't want to change
to the framework.
Mr Dacombe, Council for decision making purposes as a
group, but the Council is made up of 11 individuals. In
2009 there was an election, was there not, in
New Councillors came on, old Councillors went off,
2010, October, there was another election?---Yep.
New Councillors come on, old Councillors go off or maybe
the other way around. Yes?---Yes.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
So when you're talking about changes and Councillors
wanting or Council wanting or not wanting change, you never
asked them, did you, whether the templates, for example, of
the reports was something that they were happy with?---No,
I gathered - I - - Sorry, your answer is no?---No.
All right. Now - no, no, your answer is no in relation to
So you work on assumptions that you have formed. You've
made some assumptions that maybe Council doesn't want the
changes to the reports and that's what you go on. You
don't actually scratch the surface and get to the bottom of
it, do you?---When I say no, I didn't ask them as a
That's exactly right. So you form a view based on an
assumption, and you just proceed on that basis. And it's
because it's easier, isn't it Mr Dacombe? It's the easy
way to do it?---No.
Were you just waiting for everything to come under the
umbrella of Refocus and then make the change. Is that what
you were doing?---No, I've explained what I did for the
first year, and I - - But Mr Dacombe, changing a template is not a major
exercise. Why did you not direct the planning division or
the building division to use a report in a different
style?---(No audible answer).
You never thought of it?---No, I - I - I built up over that
first year a very keen knowledge that change was required
on a wide front. The approach I ended up taking was to
take a strategic approach to that. What I determined, and
particularly around the regulatory area where there were
major problems in terms of getting - particularly turning
the applications through, both in the planning area, the
building area, to a lesser extent, health. The priority
there had to be on attempting to improve those systems.
What we didn't need - what I didn't need or couldn't impose
at that stage on staff that were already overloaded was was a change in the area that you were talking about. The
focus had to be on improving the throughput.
Mr Dacombe, in general, I hear what you say. But I'm
talking about a document, a precedent document. Making
changes to a simple document. It would not have been a
difficult exercise for you to give that direction, would
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Merrill Corporation Australia
it?---Well, I think you would have been probably surprised
about the ripples that would have caused. And I
determined - - I'm not asking you that, about whether they would accept
But it would have been an easy exercise for you to look at
the reports and you having had all those years experience
in New Zealand and you say, "This report, I'm not happy
with this report. It doesn't do what it should do. It
doesn't meet - it doesn't comply with the standing order,
it doesn't comply with the Act. I want that done this
way." That would have been easy for you to do and it could
have been done within a month, two months, just to bring it
in and then you have a consultation period with the staff
to make sure they were happy with the changes, and then you
roll it through. Couldn't that have been done?---Well,
I - - It could have been done?---Of course it could.
But it wasn't?---No, I - - In fact, it was never done during your term at Canning, not
done at all. Not done before and not done under
Refocus?---Well, I don't think that's true, but I
would - in fact, I don't think that's true.
So there was a new template that was introduced, when?---I
can't tell you the date but my - - Who did it?---Pardon?
Who did it?---It was done as a result of the Charles
Johnson report, that was one of the - - Who did the template?---It was - I couldn't tell you who
actually drew up the template, but it was done under the
leadership of the executive - executive at the time, Kevin
And you took this - sorry?---And - and it must have been
some months - it must have been in place some months
because the Council subsequently resolved to roll it back.
So you took it up to Council, is that what you're saying,
this new template?---No, I didn't - I didn't do that
personally, Kevin Jefferies the executive did that. There
was a workshop on that.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
So - - -?---And it was introduced.
Well, a workshop is not a decision making time, is
So was the new template put to Council in its decision
making role as a Council, and they got to vote on it?---I
couldn't answer that.
The answer is no. There's nothing there, is there?---I
don't know. I don't know the answer to that.
Mr Dacombe, if I could just take you back then, we're
rolling along, we're moving. We're moving a little bit
further on, and let's say that the IVF has taken, and
there's a pregnancy happening. If you didn't know, you're
pregnant, Mr Dacombe. Come November 2010, you have new
executives. New executives come on board?---Yes.
Now, Mr Jefferies is already in the organisation on a
six-month contract, correct?---Mm hmm.
In fact, he's on annual leave, doesn't come back to
29 November 2010, and when he comes back he takes on the
role of executive?---For Property Assets and Economic
And you'd worked with him in New Zealand, correct?---I did.
Then you look at the executive of Client and Customer
Services, and you engage Fiona Armstrong?---Yep.
Yes. And Fiona Armstrong is someone you'd had experience
with in the past?---No.
Not at all?---No.
Then you have Mr Mouritz, Dr Mouritz?---Dr Mouritz, yes.
And Dr Mouritz, you'd had some dealings with him even in
New Zealand, but also when he was working with the
Department of Housing, or was a consultant to Department of
Housing for the Brownlie Project?---That's right.
So he comes on board, so you've had some previous dealing
with Dr Mouritz. And then you have Andrew Sharpe, the
executive for City Assets and Development
Services?---That's right.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
And that is your dream team come late November 2010. Would
you accept that if I call them your “Dream team”?---I
Your inner circle?---Well, they’re my executive team.
Would you accept that they were your inner circle?---Mm.
Um - - Did you trust them?---Absolutely.
Each of them?---Each of them?
Did you trust Andrew Sharpe?---I did.
So you have this executive - new executive team that comes
across. They are all sold on Refocus, correct?---They came
on board to pack up the next phase of Refocus. So they
came on board with a very clear articulation from me about
what we were talking about.
Yes?---What we’ve gone through.
So - - -?---So yes, sorry.
- - - at the time of employing them they knew about
Refocus, the organisational change that you were bringing
to the organisation. And what their role was going to be
in helping bringing about that organisational change,
correct?---That’s right.
And even Andrew Sharpe, although he wasn’t new employed, he
had come on board in relation to the organisational
The level underneath executive managers, the level of
managers, they hadn’t all come on board with Refocus, had
they?---Um - - Not all of them?---Not all of them, no.
Had Mr Bozich come on board with Refocus?---Um - - That he was serving the Council?---I would - I would say he
And who else would you say hadn’t?---Um - - At the manager level.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
I’m not talking about - - -?---Yeah.
- - - lower than that?---Yes. Can - can I - can I answer
that in two sentences rather than one?
Well, perhaps we can have some names. We’ve got Bozich is
one. Who else?---No, I can’t - I - Penny Wright would be
another. She wasn’t a manager but she was the
Communications Adviser.
And you thought she was leaking information to Council,
didn’t you, about you?---Yes.
And you moved her?---And what?
You moved her around?---I put her - I put her function into
the strategic area, yes. There was a rationale for that
related to the function of it - - (Indistinct) rationale.
You moved her?---I did.
And if you were in her shoes, one minute she has a trusted
position as a public - I can’t remember the title
exactly - - -?---Public Affairs Officer.
Thank you. As a Public Affairs Officer. And next minute
she is sidelined?---She was still the Public Affairs
Yes. But for - first time originally she had direct access
to the CEO, direct access to the Council, and then that was
turned off more or less. Do you accept that?---I think
that that issue was discussed with her at the time. And
while she reported to Dr Mouritz, she still had access to
me. But she didn’t report to me.
Well, Mr - Mr Dacombe, you used to sit in your office all
the time. People would have to come to you. You weren’t
the sort of leader that would walk around, say good
morning, check on how people are doing and be friendly with
them. You would sit in your office and people would have
to make appointments to come and see you. You were the
boss. Isn’t that right?---They didn’t have to make
appointments to come and see me. Our - - But they had to come and see you. They had to come
upstairs and see you?---(No audible answer).
But you - you can’t say you had an open door policy?---I
did have an open door policy.
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That anyone could come in at any time?---Anybody could come
in at any time. Unless the door was shut. And it - which
it was rarely - rarely shut.
So if someone was complaining about - lower down than
manager was complaining about their work, they could come
direct to you, or you would send them back to say, “No,
your - you are answerable to this manager and to this
executive manager, deal with them”?---No. Anybody could
come and see me. And I would see them. I would have the
first - always have the first meeting with them. Always
one on one. Or if they wanted somebody with them, that I
was totally comfortable as well. I would always resolve
issues involving their executive. That was absolutely
essential because I would not undermine the executive.
Now, I can give you examples - - No, I’ve seen some documents, Mr Dacombe, where that’s
occurred and you’re exactly right. You’ve involved the
executive and asked them to - to deal with it. Even though
someone may have come first to you, you say, “No,
(indistinct) go and deal with your manager and
your” - - -?---Well, it would depend on the - - - - - “executive manager”?---- - - issue. And often
there’s - there would be a subsequent meeting involving the
manager before I handed it over.
And Tania Trengove, had she accepted Refocus?---Well, she
said - - That is her name, isn’t it?---She said she did.
She said she did.
she?---She was.
She was in charge of aged care, wasn’t
And with all this restructuring, what ended up happening to
her role?---She indicated that she wanted - she indicated
to me, this is a case of a manger coming directly to me,
that she was looking for new challenges within the
organisation. She felt that she had done what she could do
in the aged care and she wished to extend herself. And so
- so we found - we found ways to retain her in the
organisation and give her new experiences. So she came out
of the aged care management role.
But she wasn’t a friend of yours, was she,
Mr Dacombe?---Well, I - - -
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Wasn’t a supporter maybe I should say?---I subsequently
found that out.
Now, Mr Dacombe, you had all these changes for Refocus.
When you’ve come on board, I think you said there were some
pressing issues. One of them was the withdrawal from SMRC,
the decision having been taken just before you started in
the - - -?---Yeah.
- - - organisation, yes?---Yes.
And wasn’t one of the things that you wanted to do early on
is put in place a dedicated Compliance Officer to deal, for
example, with the SMRC issues and the fallout from
And when, if at all, was a Compliance Officer
appointed?---I can’t - I can’t recall.
Before you left Canning was there one appointed?---I - I
actually can’t recall. Now, what happened in - what
happened in that regular - regulatory area were - there
were changes around (inaudible) and - and my recollection
would be that we provided for that compliance role. But I
couldn’t describe to you how we did that here.
And also from very early on you were already making some
rumblings about legal services and - - -?---That’s right.
- - - how the Council was going to get legal services.
What was your view in relation to the legal services
provision of services to the Council?---Well, I thought we
were probably - well, we had no in-house capability and I
thought that we were probably briefing out more than we
needed to. I think we had a capability around handling
property transactions and that sort of thing, but it was
limited to that. So I thought two things around that, that
there needed to be tighter management of the external legal
advice. And I thought that there was the opportunity to
provide a level of advice internally that would be quite
cost effective.
All right. If I now could take you to something
different? And perhaps - I’m going to refer to the
transcript, ladies.
In relation to some evidence that you’ve already given,
dealing with the various issues, specific 12 issues that
are being looked at by this Inquiry (indistinct).
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Sorry, Ms Saraceni - - -
Would you mind if we just took a break now?
We’re just having an Internet problem I just need to get
fixed before we pull up the new document.
Yes, sir.
So it might be a good time just to take
10 minutes, if that’s all right with you.
Thank you.
Thank you.
(Short adjournment)
DACOMBE, MARK OSMOND recalled on former affirmation:
Ms Saraceni?
Thank you.
Thank you, Inquirer.
Mr Dacombe, I’m just going to start asking some questions
now in relation to evidence already given about the
12 issues that people have specifically been asked on.
First, the Bannister Road works. When you gave evidence
last time, and it’s up on the screen at page 55 of the
transcript, you talked about consultation with the Local
Government - Department of Local Government, and they drew
certain things to your attention. Do you see that at the
top of page 55 of the transcript?---Yeah, I’m just trying
to place it.
So the question/comment was in relation to - fact that
reasons were not adequately given for not accepting a
recommendation of an officer in that context there. When
did you first consult the Department of Local Government
about that?---I - I - excuse me, Ms Saraceni, but I - I
think that’s referring to the issue of - - Confidentiality?--- - - - confidentiality.
Thank you. I apologise. So the fact that the minutes did
not reflect the reasons for confidentiality?---That’s
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Thank you for bringing that to my attention. So you
consulted - was it you or someone else that consulted with
the Department of Local Government about that?---No, I
think that issue was raised by the Department of Local
Government with Natalie Leeson, our legal and democratic
services person, I think.
And then how did you find out about it?---I think she told
As a result of that discussion what, if anything,
changed?---A new approach that - a new approach was put in
place, and I think the first time that was used was
December 2011.
Do you remember roughly when she started as your in-house
lawyer?---No. It was about midyear, I think.
Mid-2011?---I - yes, but I can’t be sure.
Now, you had that advice from the department.
Natalie, she relayed it to you?---Yeah.
You -
You’re the CEO. You’re the boss. When and in what
circumstances did you inform Andrew Sharpe of that?---Well,
she may - she may have already informed him. I don’t know
Did you?---I - I don’t recall going straight from Natalie
to Andrew, for example.
And - - - ?---I don’t know how that communication took
And you didn’t inform Councillor Mason of that advice that
you’ve received from the Department of Local Government,
did you?---Probably - well, not specifically, no, I don’t
think so.
How long after you commenced employment at the City of
Canning did you develop a working knowledge of the Local
Government Act? You’ve made some comments in page 55 of
the transcript. You started in February ’09. When - which
date in February?---About the 19 - that - no, not the
19th. About the 23rd, I think.
And roughly how long did it take you to develop a working
knowledge of the Act?---Well, it’s - you know, obviously
it’s a large Act, and there’d be parts of it that I’d be
more familiar with than others, but over the first few
months I started to build up a knowledge of it (inaudible).
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So by the end of 2009, when you’d been employed for roughly
10 months, would you say you had a good working knowledge
of the Act?---Well, I wouldn’t have had a photographic
memory of each of the sections, but I would certainly have
been familiar with key parts of it, and I would have known
where and how to consult it.
Mr Dacombe, I’m not suggesting you should have a
photographic memory. As any lawyer would know, you always
go to court with your statutes?---Indeed.
When you went into meetings, for example, with Council, did
you take a copy of the Local Government Act with you?---Not
always, but occasionally.
Occasionally. Did Mr Sharpe take a copy of the Local
Government Act with him?---I can’t recall.
Standing orders. Did you used to take standing orders with
you?---Stand - standing orders I had a copy of, yes.
And you had them with you at the Council meeting?---Well, I
couldn’t say every Council meeting, but certainly most
Council meeting - - These were not available to you electronically at the time,
were they? You would have to bring in a hard copy?---I had
a hard copy. I don’t - - And so you could have consulted that at any time something
came up during a Council meeting?---Well, I could have,
Did you?---From time to time I would check at - advice that
Andrew was giving, but I couldn’t give you a – specific
instances where I did that.
And when did you commence advising the Council on its
functions under the Act?---Well, I advised the Council on
its functions under the Act right from day one through the
agenda process.
How does that work? You decided what went in the agenda
and what it looked like?---The – the agenda settlement
process certainly included consideration of compliance
In relation to one of the sections of the Act that you knew
better than others, wasn’t that the section that wasn’t
actually in the Act? It was in the regulations dealing
with needing to explain reasons why a Council officer’s
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recommendation is not accepted. If you look at page 58 of
the transcript, don’t you give some evidence about that,
that you well knew what provision of the Act - regulations
was and that you were insisting that people comply with
it? No?---We’re talking now about giving reasons. Is
that - - Yes?---- - - the story?
How is it that you knew about that section but didn’t know
about the section that my friend asked you about yesterday
in relation to disposal of property?---Because this – this
was reasonably common practice.
Common practice not to accept the recommendation of
officers?---That’s right.
And what was the annual turnover of Canning?---The annual
turnover - - Yes?---- - - of staff?
No, no. Financial?---Right.
100 million, I think.
I don’t – about
And how much property did Canning own?---Quite a bit of
And yet the disposition-of-property section in the Act is
not something that you knew as well as that one provision
in the regulations dealing with the officers - - -?---Well,
there were very – very few property transactions at the
time, certainly the early stages that I was there, and that
was one of the key projects under the Refocus approach. So
– so obviously this situation of changing officers’ or
rejecting officers’ recommendations came up on a regular
basis, probably every month. Not necessarily. In terms of
dealing with property that was quite rare.
All right. And in relation to the minutes of meetings
ultimately you were responsible for those – the accuracy of
those minutes?---Yes.
Did you delegate that job to Mr Sharpe at any time?---The –
the process was that each – each executive – because the
agendas were divided up into the – sort of the areas of
each executive. They checked – they checked the minute
recording or the draft minutes. They were collated. They
went to both Andrew and myself, and that was the system
that was in place, I think, for the whole time I was there.
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Now, in relation to checking the accuracy of the minutes,
et cetera, do you accept that that was part of your
statutory duties to do that?---Yeah. Yes.
And it was also part of your contractual duties under you
contract of employment to do that?---Yeah, that's what I
say, that's what I did.
Now, under the Act you can delegate certain functions to
other persons, can't you?---Yes.
The delegation has to be formal and in writing?---Yes.
You can't delegate things that people are paying you under
your contract of employment to do, can you? Not without
the approval of others?---Not without the approval of
By agreement you can do it, but not without agreement,
correct?---There’s a - there is a formal process for formal
delegations under the Act.
But not under your contract of employment. There is no
ability to delegate under your contract of
employment?---Well, delegation I don't think is mentioned
in the contract of employment. It may be, but I would
expect that the contract of employment was referring to the
responsibility for the specific areas. The way in which I
- the way in which the Chief Executive actually discharges
those responsibilities has to be a reasonably broad range
of management discretion.
All right?---Bearing in mind at the end of the day the
accountability falls back.
The buck stops with you?---That's right.
Now, in relation to the advice you received from the
Department of Local Government about confidentiality and
how that was described in the minutes, Mr Sharpe had been
the one who was really taking care of that element of the
minutes, wasn’t he, checking about confidentiality and what
was in the box and what wasn’t. When the Department told
you that it wasn't up to scratch through your legal person,
did that place a dent in your faith in Mr Sharpe's ability
with respect to working knowledge of the Act and the
regulations - - -?---No.
- - - in relation to this?---No.
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So you just thought it was an oversight on his part?---Yes.
Did you direct him to correct it in the future?---Well, did
I say, "Mr Sharpe, correct this"? You can see that we took
action. Sorry, I'm trying to answer your question
Well, maybe I'll move on because my other question maybe
might make this question a bit more understandable. At
those Council - sorry, the executive briefing meetings that
you held before the Council meetings, that's where agenda
items came up, reports came up and that would have been the
appropriate time to check whether the item was appropriate,
whether the report was appropriate, correct?---That's
And whether the attachments that the report referred to
were the attachments that needed to be there, whether you
wanted more or less attachments?---That's right.
Correct? The deficiencies - did you detect any
deficiencies in any of the items during the time that you
were there?---Absolutely.
In the agenda, the reports?---Absolutely.
You did. And at those briefing meetings, did you direct
that they be fixed?---Yes.
And were they fixed?---Yes.
So when items that you'd picked up at that time had been
fixed when they came to the Council meeting, you were
comfortable that they were all in accordance with
legislative requirements?---Yes.
So none slipped through?---I wouldn’t say none slipped
And how do you explain the slippage?---Well, there was - as
I explained it was a very high volume of work, there was a
two-weekly turnover which meant as one agenda was settled,
the next one was being prepared. And occasionally mistakes
Mr Dacombe, if I take you to the period specifically when
you had your dream team executives, the inner
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So November 2010 moving on. You were having these
meetings, settling the agenda et cetera. The brains trust
of the City staff were with you and still things slipped
Now, was that due to oversight?---I - I would say it was well, oversight.
Wilful blindness, you didn't care?---Who didn’t care?
You or the executives?---The executives certainly cared for
the quality of work that was going forward.
Was it incompetence that no one picked it up?---No, I
reject that.
Why?---In any organisation of human beings mistakes
happen. In the case of the preparation of agendas, those
mistakes, in terms of the volume of stuff that went
through, were not huge.
It's a very large risk with mistakes going through and
things being perpetuated, isn’t it, Mr Dacombe?---I think
you saw that the risks in that area were recognised and
that towards the end of my time there, there were - again
under the Refocus banner, there was specific improvements
being implemented.
Now, you've given some evidence that you did not involve
yourself in the minutia of the Bannister Road works, as you
had other more pressing priorities. Could you tell us what
those pressing priorities were at the time?---Can you
remind me of the time?
The time that - we're looking at pages 58 onwards of your the transcript of your evidence in relation to the
Bannister Road and when that was being discussed. So I
can't give you an exact date, but you said that you didn’t
involve yourself in the minutia because of pressing
priorities. What do you recall was pressing?
Would it help if you had a hard copy to look
at a few of the - - -?---I'm just trying to - I'm just
trying to now just place a date, sir.
Yes, I'm just wondering if maybe a hard copy might allow
you to look at some - - SARACENI, MS:
Sometime in 2011, Mr Dacombe?---Well, in
2011 I was - I was certainly very deeply involved in the
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management of the change process.
projects - - -
The various the
Mr Dacombe, you had two consultants working in 2011 on
different aspects of that change process, didn’t
So what were you doing in relation to that change process,
separate from what the two consultants were doing, the
change process that was so pressing in 2011?---There were a
number of projects underway. There was - the issues
related to the City Centre redevelopment. There were
certainly ongoing issues coming out of the regulatory
review. There was certainly the day-to-day issues that
needed to be dealt with by the Chief Executive.
Such as?
What did you actually do?---(No audible answer).
It's one thing to be responsible for - it's like the
pregnant lady carrying the baby, but it's not enough.
You've got to do more than that. What were you
doing?---I - - Apart from feeding this new thing that was growing in you with you? I don't think I'll go further with that
analogy?---No. What was I doing on a day-to-day basis?
Yes?---I was dealing with the - with the - I was dealing
various issues that would come across my table. For
example, issues related to Mr Harding. Towards the end of
my time there I was spending huge amounts of time in
dealing with questions for Council agendas, personal time
that I had to put into that. There was a high degree of
consultation with - with executive team members about
staying in touch with the work that they were doing, again,
on a range of projects. And - yeah, I mean that is a fair
summary of what was taking my time and attention.
All right. Moving on, Black Spot Funding. At page 63 of
the transcript you've given some evidence that you had a
particular belief in relation to Black Spot Funding and
that was that:
A report ought to be made to Council before formal
applications are made to Main Roads Department.
Otherwise there'll be a lot of work wasted.
Do you recall giving that evidence?---What, sorry?
didn't catch the last thing you said.
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Do you recall giving that evidence?---Yes, I do.
And you had that belief, but why did you not discuss the
proposed funding details with the Council before the
Engineering Department submitted the application to
Main Roads? So you had that belief, but what did you do
about it? Did you direct the executive in relation to
Black Spot funding, "Before you go further, put it up to
the Council"?---The direction that I gave Charles Sullivan
was that we needed to be shifting - shifting our approach
to not just Black Spot Funding, but anything that we were
seeking external funding for and that's not just the
engineering areas. So it wasn’t just Charles. But the
Council needed to be involved in the initial stages of
deciding on those programs. And so what I was starting to
do was address that from a systems point of view through
the budget process.
Moving on, at page 64 of the transcript, you've given some
evidence that if you and your executive managers and senior
engineering staff did not understand a decision of the
Council on any particular matter, your habit was to keep
your original recommendations consistent and re-send the
matter back to Council for a decision. Would you like to
look at that, at page 64 of the transcript? It's about the
third full paragraph down from the top?---Yes, I'm just
trying to.
So I take it from that that it was a deliberate action on
your part and the part of executive managers and others, if
you couldn't understand what Council - why Council decided
something, you'd just send the original recommendation back
without doing anything. Is that correct?---No, and I just
need a bit more context for this - for this answer, I'm
sorry. What - what traffic signal modification were we
talking about?
We're still talking about Bannister Road?---Okay.
You have said, and I want to make sure that I've
understood, that it was a deliberate action on your part
and those of your staff, if you did not understand a
Council decision on something, you would stick with the
original recommendation and set it back up to Council.
That's deliberate action on your part, correct?---No.
It was inadvertent?---(No audible answer).
That's what you've said, are you changing your evidence
now?---Look, I have - I have to say, I've got a total blank
about this line of questioning. So I would actually like
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maybe a few minutes to just go back and just get the
Mr Dacombe - - -?---Because the simple answer to your
question is no.
No to what? It wasn't deliberate?---That - that was not a
deliberate approach to responding to things that might be a
little unclear coming out of Council.
Surely it was being done deliberately because you were
trying to wear down the Council or try and sneak something
in. Like what happened with the administrative policy in
relation to purchasing? Changes were made and - by Council
that were never actually adopted - sorry. Changes
were - there were internal changes made, and brought to
Council, further changes made, still not made, and then we
ended up where we did end up. This was not a deliberate
All right. Let's turn to Centenary Avenue, the second
issue. Looking at page 68 of the transcript. Now, when I
read your evidence at page 68 of the transcript, it seems
that as CEO, you have a particular view about division of
labour, some things that are within what you do and some
things that are beneath you and you don't do, others do.
Is it correct that you failed to ensure that the Council
understood that the Centenary Avenue stage 1 was fully
funded because you felt that as CEO, it was not your role
to do this, despite the discussions being held at Council
meetings on the point?---(No audible answer).
You didn't feel it was up to you as the CEO to draw that to
your - to their attention, correct?---Are we referring to
something that I said, are we?
Page 68 of the transcript, in relation to
Centenary Avenue?---Is this here? Yeah.
So you felt it wasn't up to you to - - -?---No,
Ms Saraceni, I did not know at the meeting that they didn't
understand it was Black Spot funded, and in fact that
information had been provided to them as part of the budget
But that's what I'm saying, you didn't think it was up to
you to correct any misunderstanding they had because they'd
already heard it before from someone else?---There was no
apparent misunderstanding at the meeting that I attended as
to where the funding was coming from.
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You also failed to make the Council aware in relation to
Centenary Avenue of the potential for City of Canning
construction workers to run out of work if - if that
project did not proceed immediately before they voted on
whether to proceed with the works because it had been
raised earlier at the budget forum. Isn't that correct?
You didn't raise it then because they'd heard it before at
the budget forum. Page 69 of your transcript?---Um - - Do I - do I take it then that it's correct that what's
happening is, you know that something is not right, you're
sitting in this meeting, but you don't say anything to
correct it?---(No audible answer).
Is that what you did?---I didn't - I didn't raise the issue
at the meeting that they - my - I don't recall raising that
at the meeting.
Because you didn't think it was a real issue that workers
might run out of work?---No, because I actually thought
that largely it was a management issue that we would be
able to address.
Mr Dacombe, how does that action of yours demonstrate you
being a proactive leader in advising elected persons, who
are mostly volunteers, about what's going on?---I actually
didn't think that that issue was germane to their decision.
And it wasn't a big issue at all, was it?---Pardon?
It wasn't a big issue at all because there was work for the
construction workers to do?---There were - if - if the team
had been relying on this work and the Council had adopted
for whatever reasons not to do this work, then I would have
considered that as a management issue to sort out how we
addressed any possible impact on the organisation. But
that sort of decision - - That's right. It wasn't the end of the world that these
workers were going to be made redundant or anything?---That
sort of decision should not have been driving - that issue
should not have been driving any decision on the - on
whether the work got done or not.
All right. Now, moving on again, still in Centenary Avenue
you were giving some evidence at page 69 on that same page,
you made no change to the practice current at the time you
commenced as CEO whereby Andrew Sharpe would advise the
Council on procedural matters under the Act, and the
standing orders, without any formal written delegation from
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you. That's correct, you made no change to that?---No, I
didn't make any changes to that.
You would appreciate now, if not before, that any
delegation under the Act needed to be in writing,
You understand that now?---Yes.
Now, earlier you gave some evidence that you had a working
knowledge of the Act by about the end of 2009, after about
eight months. And are you expecting the Inquiry to
understand that you hadn't realised that that was what
needed to be done; a written delegation of that particular
function?---Well, just in - as far as that function is
concerned, again I - I think that I'd already responded
this way. But I considered that, yes, I had the ultimate
responsibility for the quality of - - Mr Dacombe, we - we - - -?---- - - all of the advice that
was - - Mr Dacombe, we've heard that before.
white - - -?---Okay.
It's in black and
- - - the delegation has to be in writing.
put in writing by you, was it?---No.
It was never
Now, it was - you never put it in writing; was it because
of oversight on your part, wilful blindness, or
incompetence?---No, if it was supposed to be in - in
writing, it would have been oversight.
Ms Saraceni, what's the - what’s the
statutory number for that section, do you know?
Not off the - - I don't either, it's fine.
it up, sir.
I'll get my instructing solicitor to look
I'll just make a note of it.
So if I could move on, then. But you were
familiar with standing order, clause 3.14, weren't
you?---Which - was I sit here, I haven't consulted them for
two years so perhaps you could remind me.
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But you're working as a consultant in the sector?---Pardon?
You're working as a consultant in the sector?---Yes, and I
would - if I needed to refer to standing orders, I would do
Well, they're pretty standard across the Local Government,
aren't they?---As I said, I don't have a photographic
memory and I haven't consulted them for some time.
Clause 3.4 - sorry, clause 3.14 of the standing orders, you
said at page 70 of your evidence, perhaps if you could turn
to page 70 and see if that assists you. Page 70 of your
evidence, you've said that although you'd formed the view
that clearly standing order clause 3.14 was not applicable
when Councillor Mason relied on it, and then proceeded to
move a motion that Council not deal with the item at its
Council meeting, you did not draw it to his attention such
that he had an opportunity of not proceeding with a
procedurally inaccurate motion. So you've said that you
clearly knew that clause 3.14 did not apply and yet you sat
there and did nothing when Councillor Mason relied on that
for purposes of his motion. Why?---(No audible answer).
Mr Dacombe, was it oversight, incompetence or wilful
blindness? What are we talking about here?---Okay. I'm
again having trouble with the context of what we're looking
at here.
As I recall, it was the fact of the matter of
Centenary Avenue was brought back within the three-month
You said at page 70 of your evidence that you'd clearly you'd formed a view that clearly standing order 3.14 did
not apply and yet, sitting in that meeting, you did not
draw that to the Council's attention, did you?---No.
So my question to you is why not? Incompetence, wilful
blindness or a mere oversight?---Well, clearly oversight.
Again, are there going to be many more of these instances,
Mr Dacombe?---I would expect not.
As Chief Executive Officer you did not speak to the
officer's report on Centenary Avenue - I'm looking at
page 71 of the transcript - so as CEO you did not speak to
the officer's report on Centenary Avenue road works and you
did not bring any particular matters to the attention of
Councillors to ensure that they were well informed before
they made the decision, although you'd been made aware of
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the potential for those construction workers to run out of
work. So you - you felt comfortable that they didn't need
to know that when deciding what they did?---The
construction workers?
We've covered that.
Yes. So you didn't think that was one of - and that one
was important or not?---No.
Now, this Centenary Avenue road works, does that have
anything to do with the contamination of Centenary Park
West, the old refuse site, or not? They're completely
separate, just happen to be in the same area?---They're in
the same area but I can't - - That's the only link? There's not there's - - -?---Pardon?
That's the only link? They just happened to be in the
same - - -?---I think so, yeah.
Well, if I could just turn to Willetton Child Care Centre,
moving along, at page 72 of the transcript. So you start
in February 2009. You try and get on top of what the
issues are, what's going on with Council, as you were
saying before?---Mm hmm.
At the City, I should say, not Council, at the City. When
did you first become aware that the lease for the Willetton
Child Care Centre had expired about two years before you
started?---Well, my awareness of that would have - I would
have become aware when the issue of - when the Willetton
Child Care Centre raised the issue related to their need to
do works.
So when you first joined the City you didn't make any
attempt to ascertain what buildings and land it owned, any
leases it had? You didn't check the finances?---The - the
issue of Council property, what we owned, what the - what
the use of it was, who might be leasing it, all that sort
of thing, was an issue that was on the table when I joined
the Council and that information, as part of a project,
overall project, was not collated in one single place until
quite some time after I started.
Mr Dacombe, you're all in one building. It may be that the
Community Services are looking at and the building lease
people are looking at it as well, but they're all in the
one building and you're the boss. What did you personally
do to advance this issue about the lease of Willetton Child
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Merrill Corporation Australia
Care Centre, you personally? What did you do?---No. I was
involved in initial - an initial discussion that involved
the Mayor, local member Mike Nahan, and - and I assigned
appropriate staff members to deal with the issue.
So apart from the meeting with Mike Nahan and making sure
or telling people, do - do what you need to do, you did not
personally - - -?---I did not - - - - - move the matter forward?---I did not intervene in
that issue.
Why not?---Because I had perfectly capable senior staff who
were assigned to deal with it.
You heard the audio yesterday. I think in your words you
said it was “Combative”. Why didn't you feel the need to
step in and act? You were the face of the City. Why did
you not do anything personally?---Because, as I've said, I
had perfectly capable executive staff handling - assigned
to handle this and other issues.
Mr Dacombe, you may have thought that but Mr Holland didn't
think that, did he. He kept coming back - - -?---I think
Mr Holland had - had quite high regard for Fiona Armstrong,
who did everything that she could to shepherd that through.
Now, as a result of this lease having been expired for a
long time and nothing having happened, did that raise a red
flag in your mind that perhaps you should check whether
other leases were similarly in a state of
uncertainty?---Yes, and that's what happened.
Did you do that personally?---No.
You - - -?---I caused that to happen.
Who did it?---There - it was - the actual physical work was
done by a person who I think was on contract to us
specifically to do that and - and that took place under the
oversight of Andrew Sharpe and that detailed information quite huge spreadsheets were actually provided to the
Council as part of the Refocus program.
All right. If we could move on? There's a letter on
21 December 2010, you refer to it page 78 of the
transcript. A letter from the City of Canning that goes to
Lotterywest, the funder of some works that was going to be
done in relation to repairing the kitchen we've heard
evidence about. I put it to you, Mr Dacombe, that you
acted unprofessionally when you sanctioned that letter to
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Merrill Corporation Australia
go out on the Letterhead of the City of Canning, knowing
that the speed with which the lease could be finalised was
not as you had portray in that letter. That letter is
actually misleading. Do you accept that?---I think the
letter says something like - well, I can't - I'm not going
to paraphrase what was in the letter. I don't think it was
misleading. I think that it was a reasonable - reasonable
expression of what we thought might be achievable.
Based on what?---Well, based on our assessment of the
Who's "Our"?---This was certainly discussed - certainly
discussed with Fiona Armstrong.
Mr Dacombe, you had a register about to be undertaken, a
register of assets. That hadn’t been finalised. You had
attended Council meetings, you'd attended the Council
forums when all this was discussed. The delays were
inordinate. McLeods had done nothing for a period of time
and yet you felt that it was appropriate to tell
Lotterywest, a Government department, "By the way, it will
be - the - the lease will be finalised soon", or words to
that effect. You say that's not misleading?---No.
Well, what does that - - -?---Could I - could I see the
If my friend - there we are.
like this.
Thank you, ladies.
So 21 December 2010?---Yes.
And if we just scroll down.
Second paragraph, second
Currently, the renewal of the lease between the City
of Canning and the Department is receiving
consideration and it is intended that a new lease
will be formalised in the new year, i.e. 2011,
January 2011.
Couldn't have been anything further from the truth at that
time, could there?---No, I think it was - given our
assessment of the issues at the time, I think it was
Not "Our assessment", you. Your - you signed this letter,
didn’t you?---I didn’t sign it.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
No, you authorised this letter to go out under the
letterhead of the organisation. "From Mark Dacombe", are
you saying you never saw that letter before it went
out?---I can't say I saw it before it went out. But
I - - So people write letters under your name and you know
nothing about it, is that what you're saying?---In a large
organisation, that happens.
So is that good governance according to you?---If people
are operating in their areas of their responsibility, it's
- it’s an appropriate way to operate.
Mr Dacombe, that's a sackable offence. You don't write a
letter on behalf of someone without that person authorising
it or agreeing to the letter being - going - going
out?---Everything went out of the organisation, as I
understand it, under my name. And that was - that was the
- the convention in the place and I did not get involved in
every single issue.
I'm horrified, Mr Dacombe. Where's the - where are the
checks and balances?---I'm not sure of your point.
Anyone can write a letter and put your name at the bottom
of it and it's okay?---(No audible answer).
What does that say about the City?---I'm just thinking of a
measured response to what you're saying. The City could
only operate and operate effectively if the people were
undertaking their roles with a high degree of - we talked
about it in that document - a high degree of scope.
So you trusted people?---Absolutely trusted the people.
Your inner circle?---Now, there's no - there's no - there’s
no way that I could sit down on a daily basis and sign
everything that went out of that organisation, so there had
to be a system in place to do that.
Mr Dacombe, this is not anything, this is a matter that was
taking up a lot of time at Council meetings. You had a
very disgruntled person who'd rock up at meetings, he was
writing emails, saying horrible things; it was in the
press. You had Mike Nahan involved, you had the Government
involved and you still didn't think it was appropriate that
you personally take charge of it and you ensure that
anything that went out on behalf of the City was
100 per cent accurate?---I was comfortable with the work
and oversight of my executive.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
This - - -?---This particular issue was discussed with me.
I think that it was a reasonable assessment of what we knew
at the time. The expression that were being made by the
Council that, "Yes, we want to continue to support these
people in this place", that this could - could go ahead.
And I think the other key point around it was there was
never any - any suggestion with anything that we did under
Refocus that the bus should stop while the heads were
counted. It would have been quite a simple matter
ultimately for the Council to make a decision on this one
and - and still protects its interests related to its
Thank you, Mr Dacombe. That's exactly right, what you've
said. Refocus wasn't stopping the business of the Council,
wasn't stopping any projects, nothing at all. Refocus was
only an internal change management tool. But if I could
just move on from there by concluding with the fact that
that letter indicates January 2011, there'll be a new
lease. At the time you left the organisation in
April 2012, was there a new lease in place as far as you
knew with - - -?---No.
Thank you. Now, you also authorised the officer's report
dealing still with Wilson Childcare Centre which set out a
variety of options, but failed to make any recommendation.
Do you remember that?---Yes.
Page 78 of the transcript.
Now, you authorised that
officer's report and you authorised it to go to Council
without any recommendation being made, didn’t you?---That
went through the - well, yes.
Yes, because the buck stops with you?---And I can tell you
the process that it went through, but I - - No, we've been through the process. The buck stops with
you. You let it go through without a
recommendation?---That's right.
Now, that was not an appropriate way of putting things to
Council, was it?---I disagree with that.
You were not assisting them to be fully informed as to what
was appropriate, what could and should be done insofar as
the City's concerned?---No, in that case all four options
were viable options that in the end they could exercise
their political judgment over.
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That's interesting because political judgment, that's what
it was. You didn’t want to upset the Council. You
couldn’t tell which was the Council wanted to go with this,
could you?---In this case we couldn’t tell and I - - Yes, Mr Dacombe, you wouldn’t stick your neck out on the
line because you didn’t know which Council wanted to
go?---We'd already stuck our neck out on a line.
Mr Dacombe, you believe in consensus. You say that your
leadership management style is authoritative. You make a
decision, you act upon it, you're accountable. That's what
you might do for those subordinates. But that's not what
you do to your masters, is it?---Um - - With Council you could not determine, politically, which
way they were going to go and you didn’t want to stick stick your neck out so you said nothing?---As I've
explained to you, we made recommendations that did not go
through. The matter went around in circles and our
approach at this point was to crystallise key options that
- that ultimately they could make a decision on.
Mr Dacombe, I put it to you that you were abdicating or
sidestepping your responsibility by not putting forward a
recommendation or insisting that your executive managers
and their staff put forward a specific - or a
recommendation vis-a-vis those options?---No, I deny that.
Moving on, when you chose not to become personally involved
in trying to resolve the animosities that had developed in
relation to the leasing dispute, as you sit here now in
hindsight, would you accept that there was an error in
judgment on your part not to take a more proactive
role?---In the context - in hindsight there are always
other ways of doing things.
And in fact not just in hindsight, but in keeping with the
motto of Refocus, the document that I took you to earlier
this morning, when you very clearly said that Refocus was
putting service back into the motto of the City of Canning
that had been around since 1962, “Above all, the[sic]
service”?---And I think that - - And here Willetton Child Care Centre did not get service,
did they?---I can - no, they didn’t get service.
And you did nothing about it?---I did.
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You didn’t do enough to put things on track?---Well, that's
- that’s your assertion.
It still wasn’t completed or dealt with by the time you
left, was it?---And not for another six months.
Moving onto the legal services tender, I'm just conscious
of the time, Mr Dacombe, so I'm sorry I'm moving a little
bit faster. Page 88 of the transcript.
We're not in a rush, Ms Saraceni, so don't
feel that you need to rush through for any - - SARACENI, MS:
chopping - - KENDALL, DR:
I'm just conscious of it just
No, that's fine.
- - - Mr Dacombe to think I'm doing this
staccato fashion.
The legal services tender is something that you raised
early on, I think, when we looked at the Refocus document
this morning, correct? Legal services?---Certainly and we
were talking about the in house - yes.
So early on in your tenure at the City of Canning, the
issue of legal services was in your mind?---That's right.
Forefront of your mind even?---Yes.
You knew, didn’t you, that there was policies,
administrative polices that were in place dealing with
legal services?---Yes.
And when did you first look at that legal services policy
that was in place at the time?---I can't recall
specifically. I think - - Well, I don't want a date. But I mean roughly?---No, well,
when I came on board I read through the policies and I
think at an early stage there was a review of them.
And were these policies available on the Intranet or were
they hard copies?---Well, I had a hard copy.
You prefer hard copy?---No.
You prefer electronic?---For the most part, yes.
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And also the purchasing policy, that was something you were
aware of at about the same time as the legal services
Now, in relation to Council and what Council was looking at
doing in relation to the provision of legal services, you
were aware, weren’t you, that it was not consistent with
what was actually written in the policy at the time, the
way Council was looking at going, where Council was looking
at going with legal services was not consistent with the
policy?---As I sit here I can't actually recall that, but
that's been pointed out to me, yeah.
And I put it to you that entering - knowing the policy,
understanding what Council wanted to do, it would - it was
up to you, as the person to advise the Council, to speech
to them about, "Okay, that's what you want to do, but we
also need to review the policy". You never did that, did
you?---Well, no.
And would you accept that you failed to meet your statutory
and contractual obligations by not doing that?---I'm just
trying to recall the - no, I don't accept that I've
breached my contract. And if I have, certainly not
Or your statutory duties?---Or my statutory duty.
It may not have been deliberate, but you didn’t - you
didn’t think of it. You weren’t proactive at all, were
you, Mr Dacombe? You were too focused on this Refocus to
worry about anything actually happening on the
ground?---Well, I think that's not true.
Isn't it?---And I would be happy to - to go over that. But
that is not true. I think what you're putting to me is an
expectation that is quite unusual and certainly the level
of detail that was expected, and that you seem to be
personally attributing to me, of a Chief Executive in an
organisation this size was not - is - was quite unusual is quite unusual. And what I was moving the organisation
towards was - was an approach that had highly skilled and
highly qualified people across the organisation handling
the detail, handling effective customer service, while we
also addressed the bigger issues of City development.
Mr Dacombe, I've let you speak. At the end of the day, I
didn't - I don't expect you - I don't think anyone expected
you to - to know the - the minutiae of everything, but my
concern is that you did not turn your mind to saying to the
executive, “This is what they want to do. By the way,
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Merrill Corporation Australia
we've got a policy. Can you make sure it's consistent.”
That, would you accept, would be appropriate for a CEO to
And you didn't do it?---No.
I - - -
You didn’t do it?---No, I’ll be quite clear on my answer
here that - that, like you, expressing my responsibilities
under my contract, likewise that was my expectation of the
executives, that we operate within policy, that we operate
within the law and we advise accordingly. If we didn't do
that at any stage, as I've indicated to you, that was
In fact, the way you operated, and I think at page 89 of
the transcript you've said that you really wouldn't turn
your mind to procedural matters that needed to be
considered or reviewed unless someone first drew it to your
attention, so you weren't being proactive. If someone drew
it to your attention you might do something about it but
not off your own bat?---No. I think you've taken me out of
context there.
What is the - what - what were you saying then?---What I what I was saying that clearly, within the framework of
procedural matters being dealt with, such as policy
reviews, delegations and for that sort of thing that I
would not re-look at those sorts of issues unless there was
a problem or an error that was - - But how would you know?--- - - - that was brought to my
But surely, as the CEO, you need to ensure that things are
being done appropriately and you need to ask questions.
You may not know the answers but you ask questions. Isn't
that your role?---And there was a high level of contact
between me and the executive team that was very much
focused on the way in which the organisation was being led
and managed.
Moving on to another topic in relation to Mr Sharpe and
your oversight of Mr Sharpe. I'm looking at page 91 of the
transcript. Moving on. You've given some evidence at the
bottom of page 91. I'll just give you a moment to read
Just at the bottom?
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So you've got the excuse there again that, as I call it an
excuse, that a large organisation, you can't have a finger
on every pulse, et cetera, et cetera. You employ the right
people. Well, you had your dream team there at the time.
You provide oversight and you go on. Just in relation to
that, I put it to you that you abrogated your statutory and
contractual obligations by delegating the hands-on
management type work to the executive managers without any
or any adequate quality control by you before matters went
to Council?---Well, then, I deny that completely.
What did you do?---I've explained the agenda process where
everything that went through that process. And the - the
meeting that - that we had on a weekly basis, fortnightly
to deal with the agendas, were lengthy meetings as each and
every report was examined.
How closely did you read the agenda and the reports at the
- at or before the briefing sessions you had with your
executive managers?---I - it would depend on the report.
Did you do what some of the Councillors have said, skim
read it and then focus only on the ones you want to, or did
you read everything line by line?---No. I certainly
focused on the strategic issues and I did not focus on no, I focused on the strategic issues quite clearly.
So you read the minutes of the previous Council meeting?
Would you read those?---Yes, absolutely.
And if there was anything incorrect would you pick it
Anything incorrect, inaccurate?---I would pick up anything
that was inaccurate from - from my recollection of the
meeting and any notes that I had taken. I would certainly
pick that up.
So you would take notes at meetings, handwritten
notes?---Well, not extensive but if it was something I
wanted to jog my memory, then - then I would jot it down.
And where would you put these notes? On the agenda page or
did you have a pad or a - - -?---No. Just on an agenda
page, which I referred to when I was looking at the
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Merrill Corporation Australia
And could you give at least one example of you correcting
the minutes that were now wrong?---No. We're talking
two years ago now, the latest time I was involved.
No. I appreciate it was a while ago. So if you had an
officer's report of 13 December 2011, talking about the
fact that there's a need to review the legal services
policy, you would have read that? I'm looking at page 93
of the transcript. You would have read that, wouldn’t
you? In going through the minutes, et cetera - - -?---Yes.
- - - of the report.
It - - -?---We - - -
You've read the report.
- - - talks about - - -?---Can we just have a look at the
report again?
The report, yes?---No.
If you go down - - -?---I wouldn't - I wouldn't have seen
that report.
Sorry, why is that?---Because I was overseas when that
agenda was put together, so that would - that was put
forward by Andrew Sharpe.
So the first time you saw it was when you were at the
Council meeting?---That would be right.
Now, when you were travelling did you have your City
provided phone with you?---I had my phone, yes.
City provided phone?---Yes.
And that has email access?---Yes.
Did you have your laptop with you?---I had my laptop.
You were travelling overseas?---Yeah, I had my laptop.
You had your laptop? And were you networked into the
system at the City of Canning?---Not - not overseas.
Not overseas, but you did have access - - -?---No.
that turned off, for obvious reasons.
I kept
Well, you had access to it and you had it off or you didn't
have it? Which one is it? I'm just confused?---I could’ve
- I didn't have access directly to the Council system but I
- I would have had access to the Internet.
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Exactly. And on the Internet you would have found the
agenda for the 13 December meeting?---Yes.
And the reports referred to in the - in the agenda would
have been attached if they were going up to Council, is
that correct?---Yes.
So even when you were overseas - you were there on work,
weren't you? You weren't holidaying?---I was - I was
partly holidaying, mainly holidaying.
Mainly holidaying. But before you left you weren't
holidaying. You were in Casoli doing business, weren't
you, or did you go to Casoli first?---No. I went there at
the end.
So the trip to Casoli in Italy for the sister city
relationship, that was part of work?---Yes.
So - - -?---Well, it was - yes, yes.
So the time that the agenda for the 13 December 2011
meeting was put up, you were in Italy, in Casoli and you
were working?---Yes.
And as you said you could have accessed the Internet and
checked what was the agenda for the meeting the day you got
back, correct?---Yes.
And attached to that agenda you could have also accessed
the reports that the officers had that were attached to the
agenda to be looked at on the 13 December meeting?---Yes.
Did you do that?---No.
I put my - no, I didn't - - -
Why?--- - - - and I can explain, if you - - Please?--- - - - wish.
Please. I - - -?---My attention related to the agenda and
just be clear that of the two or three weeks I was away I
think I was working two days. I fully delegated an Acting
Chief Executive and - who contacted me over a major issue,
so the time I had available I put into addressing that
major issue and I didn't have the opportunity to go through
the agenda in detail until I got back to the office on the
day - the afternoon of the meeting.
Even if not in detail, Mr Dacombe, did you actually access
the agenda for the 13 December meeting - - - ?---Not - - -
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Merrill Corporation Australia
- - - whilst you were away?---- - - not before I got back.
But you could have, but you chose not to?---I could have if
my - - That’s my - sorry?---- - - if - if my program had allowed
it, but I also chose not to, I agree. I was away primarily
on leave and significantly dealing with the issue that was
raised with me by Andrew Sharpe.
What was that?---That was the issue of the notice of motion
to cease Refocus.
So - - - ?---And to me that was the paramount concern on my
When you received the - or actually when did you get to
Casoli?---I - I could find you those dates. I can’t off
the top of my head.
All right. Well, let’s just say you left on 24 January.
Is that correct? Left Perth 24th of - sorry, 24th
of - - -?---November.
- - - November, correct?---Yes.
And you returned 13 December?---Yes.
So that’s about three weeks?---Yes.
You went first to - - -?---First to London.
And how long roughly were you there?---I was there the bulk
of the time. So - - So when did you get to Casoli in Italy?---I think - again
I’m going from recollect - recollection here. I could
probably pinpoint the time with a bit more accuracy, but I
think that I arrived there - I think I arrived there on the
Thursday before the Council meeting.
So which date are we up to, sorry? So the Council meeting
was Tuesday the 13th. Is that correct?---Yes.
Tuesday the 13th, so we go back a week is the 6th,
Tuesday. So are you talking about 7 or 8 December you
would have arrived?---Yeah, it would be the week - - The Thursday, I think, may have been 7 December?---Yes,
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Merrill Corporation Australia
Stand to be corrected by someone, one of my learned friends
in the room. 7 December 2011 was a Thursday. You arrive
in Italy on that day?---Yes.
Wednesday, sorry.
Thank you.
Wednesday. So Thursday would have been the 8th. 7th or
8th, let’s say, yes?---Yes. I think I had two full days
with them.
What was your habit of checking your emails when you were
away?---I would - if I was on leave I would probably check
them every two or three days, knowing that I’d left in
place arrangements that if I needed to be contacted I could
And you arrive in Italy. Different country. The time is
slightly different to - it is - what it is in England, but
you’re six hours behind Australia, roughly, in summer,
correct? Six, seven hours?---It’s not - - So it’s afternoon here.
Italy is in the morning?---Yeah.
Come from an Italian background, so - and I’ve been to
Casoli. So roughly that’s what we’re talking
7 December. Isn’t that the date that Councillor Mason
provided - sent an email about Refocus?---It could be
And do you remember reading that when you were in
What, if anything, did you do when you read it?---The
notice of motion? I spoke to - I called Andrew Sharpe and
I spoke to him. I may have - - And said what?---Pardon?
And said what?---I wanted some background as to what had what had transpired in the time that I was away, and I had
had - during that fortnight I had had a couple of - I think
email exchanges with him. However, on the issue - - Sorry, sorry, just a moment. You had some email exchanges
with Andrew Sharpe whilst you were away?---Yeah, I think
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In relation to - - -?---I actually can’t recall.
Well, are we talking an email a day, an email
a - - -?---No, no, no, no, no, no.
- - - an email every - - -?---Just - let’s say just a
couple, I think.
But to do with work or pleasantries in relation to your
- - - ?---No, to - I’m sure to do with work.
And specifically what?---I actually can’t recall.
can recall is that - - -
All I
Is there a chance that it had to do with Refocus, given
that - - -?---No, there was - - - - - the day before you left was the final Council forum
on 23 November?---Yeah. Yeah, sorry, I didn’t catch your
You had nothing - none of them had anything to do with
Refocus, even though the day before you left the last thing
you did was attend the Refocus Council - - -?---No, I
thought I’d battened down the hatches, to put it
colloquially, on that, and I felt that I could go away at
that point and that we at least had an understanding that
there were issues that needed to be addressed and we needed
to find a way to address them. That was where I came away
from the 23 November forum. So I - I - - Did you have a happy heart or a - or a sad heart after the
23 November forum?---I didn’t go away particularly happily,
Now, when you spoke to Mr Andrew Sharpe did you send him did you forward him a copy of the document that Councillor
Mason had sent you?---I think he - I think he had it.
However, I can’t be certain, and so - - Did you tell him the contents of Councillor Mason’s
motion?---I think that’s what I’m getting to. One way or
another he got it. Whether he got it from me or from
Councillor Mason I can’t be sure, but the - the
conversation that we had on the phone was definitely with
his full knowledge of the - of the notice of motion.
And I know it was a long time ago, but are we talking a
five-minute phone conversation, half an hour, two
hours?---I - I - I don’t know. Possibly 20 minutes.
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And what information did Mr Sharpe provide you at that
time?---Well, I asked him what he could tell me about the
context of it. He said that - that while I had been away
things had been quite intense. There had been a number of
issues that he’d had to deal with. In fact, he did
indicate he’d spent a lot of time with elected members in
the time that I’d been away. He said some of those
discussions he wasn’t comfortable relaying to me over the
phone, but he indicated that there had been a - a lot of
activity with - with elected members in the time that that I was absent.
And how did you conclude your phone conversation with
Mr Sharpe? What did you want him to do?---At that stage I
indicated to him that I would respond to the email with the
notice of motion, and - and without looking at the - the
actual documents, but I would say that I copied in - him
into that response, or I sent it to him separately.
Who were you travelling with, Mr Dacombe?---I was on my
Did you have any communication when you were overseas in on that trip with anyone from the Department of Local
Before you left to go overseas - - -?---Yes.
- - - what communication did you have with the Department
of Local Government in relation to where things were at
with you and the Council and Refocus?---I think there’s - I
think there’s an email that actually reflects that. Well,
that - that actually is the - is the communication. I
can’t actually recall.
So you did have communication with the Department of Local
Government, and the person you spoke - - -?---I - I think
we’ve seen an email through these proceedings.
And the person you spoke to was Jenny?---Jenny Law,
And that was a physical face-to-face meeting?---There was
one physical face-to - no, there may have been two.
There may have been two? That’s correct. And, in fact,
one of them was on 18 November, roughly a week before you
went overseas, correct?---Yes, I’d accept that.
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And when was the other meeting?
that?---Before that.
Before that or after
How long before that?---I think probably early November.
Early November. And those meetings coincided with the
topics being discussed at the two Council forums on Refocus
held on 9 and 23 November?---Okay. I’m just taking a
moment to recall, because the main - - Well - - -?---- - - the main reason - - - - - perhaps I’ll ask the question differently,
Mr - - -?---No, no, I - I’m happy to answer it. I was just
actually just - - All right?--- - - - ordering my thoughts. My initial
approach to her was about one specific issue.
Which was?---Which was the issue of the resolution related
to the panel for interviewing the Engineering and Technical
Services applicants. But in the process of that I gave her
a briefing on the context of what we're doing - were doing.
She asked?---Pardon?
Why? She asked you about that?---It's the - well, I can't
remember whether she specifically asked, but I certainly I certainly told her about - you know, in a reasonable
conversation about what we were doing. I actually think I
left her a copy of the Refocus booklet. Her role was to
keep an eye on what's going on in Local Government across
the board and that was a perfectly reasonable conversation
to have.
I'm not suggesting it was not?---No, no.
into context here.
I'm just putting
And in relation to - to bringing her up to speed where
things were at with Refocus, did you also explain to her
that things were a bit difficult and that Refocus wasn’t
proceeding as you would have liked?---What we talked about
also in that context was - was my concern that - that the
elected members and myself were not on the same page. That
over a period of time I'd attempted to address that. We'd
got to the stage now where these two forums were set up to
get issues out on the deck. And we did discuss the
possibility which I'd subsequently floated at I think the
23 November meeting.
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A mediator?---Well, a third party.
A third party?---But I put it as a third party, I
didn’t - - So that was her suggestion, was it?---She - she raised the
function that the - the Department used to have. I think
they used to have a statutory function where they could
intervene at that level. That had been taken away, but she
did say if it was helpful, they might be able to find an
informal way, you know, whether it be - an informal way,
not a statutory way, to sit with the parties and see
whether we could sort out the issues and find a way to
And the parties, by that she meant you versus the Council
or did she mean the City staff headed up by you versus the
Council?---No, she meant - she meant me as the City's Chief
Executive and the Council.
And this was a lengthy meeting you had with Jenny?---I
can't remember how long it was.
It was in her offices?---It was in the Department of Local
Government office, yes.
140 William Street?---Yes.
And you had booked that appointment in advance?---Yes.
And given that the first November Refocus forum was
8 November, from memory - 7/8 November, this meeting with
Jenny must have preceded that?---I think so.
You still think it was early November, or could it have
been late October?---Yeah, as I say, it wasn’t long before,
so - - All right. Now, with this suggestion about the independent
third party person, I think at transcript page 121 onto 122
you've already given some evidence about that. But now
you've told us that the idea for that was from the
Department of Local Government from Jenny. Did she give
you any sense that the Department would be happy to
intervene or become involved, other than through an
independent third party, or did she just say, "You deal
with it and keep me posted", or words to that effect?---My
recollection was that if there was a willingness of the
parties, then they would have - the Department - she would
have provided some sort of facilitative assistance, even if
it was simply to identify somebody who could do that role.
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And were names discussed at that meeting?---No, no, no.
And did she say to you that you could contact her at any
time?---Um - - You could use her as a sounding board, did she say that to
you?---Well, that was certainly the tenor of the
conversation, yes.
Now, the other person you used as a sounding board was
Mr Richardson, wasn’t he?---Yes.
So you had communications with Mr Richardson when you
realised that Refocus was not going the way you wanted
it?---I had one particular contact with him. I certainly after he finished his assignment, I didn’t have a lot of
contact with him at all.
But you did have one - - -?---But during that period I had
one, I think.
Even one after he'd done his final report?---Yes, I think
Did you also seek guidance from your wife who works in the
Local Government sector at about this time?---Well, she and
I certainly talked about these issues.
And was she at that stage contracting to the Department of
Local Government?---Mm - - The services of her business which is now known as
Localise, but then had a different name. I think it had
her surname, Dalziel?---To the Department, I don't think
Was she contracting to WALGA at that time?---I don't know
the answer to that.
She did WALGA forums, didn’t she?---She's what, sorry?
She did WALGA forums in relation to change management,
educating Councillors about how to run a Council?---Yes.
And she was doing that in 2011 as far as you know?---In during 2011 she may have - she may very well have done some
work with elected members.
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All right. Now, if we go back a little bit in time,
yesterday you were giving some evidence in relation to your
feeling, your perception that Refocus was off track?
Sorry, Ms Saraceni, before you get to that
point I just want - I try not to interrupt. I apologise.
Yes - no, no.
I just have on question, in relation to the
offer of mediation, did you discuss that offer with any of
the Council or - - -?---Yes, I discussed that at the forum
subsequent to the meeting with - with Jenny Law. I put
that on the table as a possibility that we invite a
third party to be involved. And the response actually came
from Ms Saraceni's client who- Mr Mason, who said that he
would be - would not be uncomfortable with that - no, I'll
say that again. That he would not be comfortable with
that. I left that - I left that as an open question at
that point. And had things not progressed down the path
that they did while I was away, it was my intention to come
back to that and have another go at it. But at that time I
got a very what I've called, I think, elsewhere a lukewarm
response to that proposal.
Now, yesterday you were giving some
evidence in relation to your perception that Refocus was
off the tracks. And as I recall in your evidence you said
that not November, you were aware of that back in
September 2011. Do you recall giving that evidence
If I could just take you through a little bit of a timeline
to get us to that September date to try and narrow it down
a little bit. October every year is when the Council
elections are held, correct?---Yes.
So in 2011, October 2011 would have been the Council
elections. Do you recall receiving some emails from some
Councillors before the elections complaining that they
didn't have enough time to do their electioneering because
of the workload that they had, particularly with Refocus
and all the things that came through that?---I don't recall
the emails, but I have no doubt that was an issue.
15 August 2011, an email from Councillor Barry to you in
which he advised he was withdrawing his nominations for
PAGs because lack of participation - - -?---Okay, I
actually do remember that.
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Okay, perhaps I could just finish saying it whilst the
ladies are trying to find it?---No, no. I - I just - your
comment - - All right?---- - - brought it back.
Okay, thank you. So Councillor Barry wrote to you and he
said that he was withdrawing his nomination from PAGs
because (1) there was a lack of participation and - or
sufficient Councillors to gain a broad opinion required and
there was too few doing too much. And (2) That will
concentrate energies on upcoming election. Do you recall
that email, yes?---Just - yes, just excuse me, cos somehow
this has come alive.
That's okay, mine does that the same (indistinct).
I’m just trying - just trying to get the
document number, 28 - counsel? 28?
I apologise that I haven't - - No, no, that's fine.
Last night there was no one else to ask.
We'll get there.
You responded to that, Mr - sorry, have we
got it up there? Well, given that you've remembered that,
I'll move on. You responded to that email on 18 August.
You replied to Councillor Barry and you actually chose to
include the Mayor in your response. And you said, and I
quote from that email you sent:
The Council has endorsed a very large change
program. A critical step in managing such a program
is ensuring that there is an effective governance
framework in case. The Council recognised that issue
and adopted the Refocus governance structure
comprising the Refocus Council forums and a number of
Do you recall that?---Yes.
Now, you are writing to Councillor Barry here, aren't
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You're writing to Councillor Barry?---Yes.
I find it very - very remote. Looks like you're writing
for someone else to read this, not Councillor Barry. He
knows all this stuff. Why did you put it in that term - in
those terms?---(No audible answer).
And then you proceed.
March 2011?---Yep.
Wasn't PAGs set up in
So this is five months on?---Yes.
You feel the need to play schoolmaster and tell
Councillor Barry, verse by verse, what it's all about.
Look, you go on, you say:
The PAGs are modelled on the advisory panel set up to
oversee the development of the Cannington
Leisureplex, and they're based on the principle that
a small number of members can engage with an issue or
project to a greater depth than might otherwise be
the case and act as a bridge between management and
the Council. All decision making is retained by the
full Council, so all members are ultimately
involved. At the present time, now the budget is
behind us, we are focused on preparing a work program
through to the end of June 2012.
So you're looking forward to June 2012. You weren't there
at that stage in August, you were looking forward to that
period of time?---Mm hmm.
This will show how the work of each of the PAGs will
progress over the year and whenever possible, will
include key milestones and targets. I think that
will address your concerns about the relative
attention being paid to various areas.
Why did you say that, in those terms, to
Councillor Barry?---I think that - yeah.
It doesn't answer his email. You've written that for
someone else. Who did you - who else did you send that
document to, apart from who is visibly shown on it?---I
thought - I thought that it was an opportunity just to no, the answer to your question - sorry, the answer to your
question is I don't believe I sent it to anybody else.
You didn't send it to the Department of Local Government,
to Jenny?---Did I?
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Did you?---I don't actually recall doing that.
Is it possible that you did?---I think it's unlikely that I
did that.
All right. So that is August 2011, then I think the budget
happened at or about that time? Maybe just before then, is
that correct?---August - yes, just before then.
The budget. Then we move forward to September, and on
20 September what you have is a Refocus Council
Now, your comment yesterday that by September, you knew
that Refocus was well off track, that came to you at that
Refocus Council Forum on 20 September, didn't it?---It
actually probably came to me - - Earlier?---Yeah.
How early?---I mean, when we talk about going - excuse
me - going off track, key decisions that were instrumental
in that were actually made as part of the budget process.
So you know, clearly I had issues from 8 August, I think.
8th or 9th, when the budget was adopted with certain
constraints put on it.
And one of those was in relation to HR and bringing people
So your awareness that things weren't right - I forget
whatever pregnant women have, they have the - not an
MRI scan or they have something else, but anyhow, we won't
go there. So August, maybe even July, you could tell that
things weren't going well with Refocus?---I -I - - Because the budget - the budget was looked at in early
August - - -?---Yeah, I’m just trying to - - - - - wasn't there a budget workshop before?---That's
right, I'm just trying to give you a considered
response - - Yes?---- - - to the question. That - that - you know,
through the Refocus process, it wasn't an armchair ride at
all. So it took, you know, quite hard work to make things
happen, and for steps forward there'd be steps back, et
cetera. So - - -
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And that's not just - you're not blaming just the Council.
You had a problem with your staff as well, didn't you?---I
- I was managing two sides of that coin - - Yes?---- - - quite clearly.
Yes?---And - but the trigger point that would throw
timelines off track completely, including some things the
Council had already approved, were the constraints that
they put on 8 August. And that took some time to work
through, 27 September I attempted to address the concerns.
But - I apologise, it is a long way to go in answering your
No, no, please?---But 8 August was when the key decisions
were made that caused me real problems.
Because yesterday I had the feeling that what your evidence
was was the abolition of PAGs is when you realised that
maybe things weren't on track. But as I understand you
today, it is - it pre-dates?---Well, that's right. The
thing about the abolition on PAGs was - was on 27 September
I think you'll find that actually responding to Councillor
Barry's and others concerns, I actually write that - you
know, I propose that we review that structure after the
election, in October. So the reason why the abolition of
PAGs was so - figures so prominently in my mind was it was
after we'd had that discussion that we would review it that
the Council arbitrarily abolished them.
The Council meeting on 27 September 2011 had item
number CE-036-11, "Refocus forum report of 20 September
2011." Now, part of what was there was looking at a
document that Mike - Mr Richardson had completed which was
the overall summary of his work with Refocus. Is that
correct?---Yes, that was - that was a final report,
basically, on his assignments. Two assignments.
And at this meeting, when this item was being looked at,
you have attachments. One was the Refocus 2011 September
update. Now, is that the one that Mr Richardson - is that
this green one here that I think my friend was holding up
yesterday. Is that Mr Richardson's document or your
document?---No, that's my document.
And you also looked - included the, "2011/2012 budget
program, new investment areas”, as an attachment?---Yes.
Attachment 3, "Engineering and technical services review
presentation." 4, "Engineering and technical services
draft brief." Now, when we're talking about draft brief,
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is this the document we're talking about? Executive
engineering and technical services application package for
the - - -?---No.
There's another document?---Yes.
All right. Then you had number 5, "Land asset review
Six, "Land asset review draft brief"?---Yes.
This is to engage outside consultants is it, is that what
you're talking about with these briefs?---They - it was
probably a mixture of outside consultants and in-house
work. But yes, a brief to define those particular projects
and to apply the resources to do them.
And then you had item 7, "Re-design of care services and
review of patrol security and community safety"?---Yes.
Another attachment, number 8, "Patrol security and
community safety review draft brief"?---Mm hmm.
Again, this brief is what? "Patrol security and community
safety review draft brief”, it's internal?---That's for a
review of that service. I don't think at that stage - - An internal review or external?---Well, I don’t think we’d
decided at that stage.
And the last attachment, number 9, “Integrated planning
framework overview presentation”?---Yes.
So the purpose of this report that you put to Council, as
you’ve said here on paragraph numbered 1 is:
To report on the Refocus - Refocus forum held on
20 September ’11 and to seek Council approval for
subsequent actions with respect to the following
And you list things moving forward:
2011/’12 budget program. New investment areas.
Recruitment. Engineering and technical services
review brief. Land asset review brief. Care
services redesign. Patrol, security and community
safety review. Integrated planning. Explanation of
framework and pathway to adoption.
So this is all forward moving?---Yes.
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Now, this is 27 September 2011 - - - ?---Yes.
- - - and you’ve said this whilst you know in your heart
that Refocus is not a goer?---No - - So you’re still plodding along, aren’t you?---No, I haven’t
- I haven’t said that it wasn’t a goer at that point. I I’ve been careful with the language that I’ve used.
Well, the - the wheels were falling off. If they hadn’t
fallen off they were falling off?---What - - Would it be a miscarriage - sorry?--- - - - what I
attempted to do - and - and there’s a trail of these
attempts, Ms Saraceni - - Yes?--- - - - is to bring it on track. That 27 September
report followed a Refocus forum where we went through the
detail, and quite a lengthy session, it is my recollection,
of those items that are in there. And what I - what I was
aiming to do with that process, both the forum followed by
that report and the Council consideration of it, was - was
satisfy or clearly demonstrate that the concerns that were
being expressed to me were being dealt with. At the same
time I gave an indication of the impact of the decisions
that - in that case as well, the 8 August budget decisions
were - were arbitrary and made without, you know,
pre-consultation with me. So what I was trying to do there
was bring things on track. Now, I wasn’t about to give up
at what I saw as - as a, you know - a hurdle if - albeit
- - It’s not your character to do that, is it?
No?---Is -
Not your character to do that. Of course you would keep up
with it?---That’s what I was doing.
Persevere?---So that’s the context of that report.
All right. Now, following that meeting on 27 September
2011 you had a very firm view, had you, about Councils’
attitude to Refocus as opposed to your staff’s attitude to
So you think - you thought it was still salvageable at that
point?---What I - what I saw was time and time again the
objections to Refocus being expressed by criticisms of - of
operational things, things that I would totally agree
deserved to be criticised. What I was attempting to do
with the Refocus progress - process was take a - sort of a
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strategic and systems approach to dealing with those. So
you’ve quite rightly put to me, you know, why didn’t I do
something about this and why didn’t I do something about
that. I did, through assigning skilled people to do that,
but my approach was that I could spend three years or five
years or however long I was at the City of Canning dealing
with those fires, running around after Councillors and
looking after their constituency issues, which had to be
done and which I attempted to make sure was done, while we
focused on this. So I thought that as we moved into this
and started to demonstrate some results in the areas that
were being expressed as a concern to me, that tide would
turn and they’d say, “Well, okay.” But the shame of it
basically was - was that people weren’t prepared to allow
the time, you know, for that to happen.
And this is not just the Councillors.
as well?---I - I think - - -
This is your staff
Unsettling for them?---No, I think - I think - can I say
what I think?
Please?---I think that around the time where Councillors
were starting to express their concerns and the way they
were doing it, that gave licence to disaffected staff.
Now, I think that the work that we had done, which we
haven’t touched on in your discussion, the work that we
actually did, the programs that were run with key people in
the organisation to start to inculcate some of this change
and be very clear about the direction, I think that was
starting to take hold. But when - when the steps - the
very visible steps that the Council took to, you know basically to - that derailed aspects, if not all, of the
Refocus program. That gave licence to the mischief-makers
on the staff. So I wouldn’t say that I had opposition on
both sides. I would say I had levels of opposition on both
sides, but - well, I’ll stop there. I think I’ve described
All right. Inquirer, I only have about three questions
before I finish on this topic. Could I indulge - - KENDALL, DR:
Yes, yes, go ahead.
That’s fine.
Thank you. If I could just take you back
then to 9 December 2011, that email that you wrote that you
sent to Councillor Mason and others - - -?---Yes.
- - - that was a very decided email, very considered email,
and you very carefully set it out, as I see it?---Yes.
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Would you agree?---Yes.
Did you run that by anyone before you sent it to Councillor
Mason and the others?---I don’t know.
Some of that information may have been in your head, but
not all of it. Did you need to refer to anything, or did
you send it to someone for a second opinion? Your wife,
for example, or anyone?---I - I - I may actually have sent
it to her for - she quite often looked at something from a
tone point of view. But to no one else, and I’m not even
sure that I did that, actually.
But it’s possible you could have?
---It’s possible I could have.
And how long did it take you to draft that
document?---Several hours, I think.
Then we get to the meeting of 13 December 2011?---Yes.
A lengthy meeting, and I don’t want to take you to that
other than for the purposes of Refocus. That is where the
motion is moved that Refocus be cancelled - - - ?---Yes.
- - - and it got passed?---Yes.
There really was no opposition to it, was there?---Pardon?
There was no opposition to the motion, was there?---No.
And you did not speak against at all, did you?---I did.
What did you say?---I essentially said - and I can’t recall
the exact words, but basically we - I said that the motion
- was an answer to a question actually from
Councillor Clarke. The Mayor gave me the opportunity to
address it but made the comment that I was to stick to the
facts and not attempt to sway anybody. And essentially I
said that the motion would give - I can't - I - I - my
words are actually in the documentation so I would refer
you to that, but my recollection is I said that that would
give me some considerable difficulties if that motion was
And by that you meant if Refocus is my baby, if Refocus is
no more I am no more?---No, no. That's not what I meant at
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Is that what you felt?---Well, I - certainly, at that
meeting I felt that on 14 December I would have some
significant issues in terms of keeping the organisation
stable and dealing with the implications of the
resolution. But what I was concerned about was that quite
specifically in a number of reports, including the report
of 27 September, I'm explicit about what Refocus meant.
There has been a lot of discussion through the Inquiry that
it was a bandaid and it didn't mean anything other than
that. Take that away and everything else would continue.
I had been explicit in all of the documentation so that it
did have a meaning. It had a meaning that meant that, you
know, if it was passed in that form a whole list of things
we would have to stop and that's what I was concerned
about. And that's the nature of the email that I had sent
to the Mayor and Councillor Mason, which I thought should
have been enough for them to at least delay and wait and
talk through the issues with me.
Now, that's you in your capacity as CEO running an
organisation. That's how you felt. But personally, as a
human being, as an employee, where you have put everything
into Refocus, it was your baby and it was being thrown
out?---Well, I think - - How do you feel at that point?---Yeah, I felt pretty awful,
And is it at that point that you decided this is no more
for me? It must have been devastating, Mr Dacombe?---Well,
I think that - I mean I had put - I had put a lot of effort
into it. I did actually have a vision for what this could
mean for the elected - the elected members and for the
Council and so - I mean, I'm taking a long way to saying
But you still wanted to work through things?---Well, I
wasn't about - - You (indistinct)?---I wasn't about to walk out of the
Council chambers and say it's all yours.
All right?---I felt I had a responsibility the next day to
pick up the pieces and work out what needed to happen
there. Because while the Council said Refocus was to stop,
it was just patently clear to me that the way they went
about that resolution, is that they had no idea at that
point what Refocus was. It was something that they were
expressing through frustration about some operational
things that didn't get done, which I've acknowledged had to
be fixed. But it was also about - it was their development
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program at that point that would have morphed into their
strategic committed plan, et cetera, et cetera.
So to summarise - - -?---So the next day - - Yes?---The next day I thought it was my responsibility to
get on and deal with this and maintain, as far as I could,
stability in the organisation, attempt to explain what had
happened and then focus the executive team on - on
addressing the implications of the resolution, because
there's stuff there that couldn't stop.
So to summarise, you still had a role to play after the
13 December meeting when Refocus was thrown out?---Yeah.
Thank you, Inquirer.
All right.
Thank you, Ms Saraceni.
I think what I'll suggest, Mr Renton, is that we adjourn
until 2.30. That's fine? All right. Thank you.
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DACOMBE, MARK OSMOND recalled on former affirmation:
Ms Saraceni?
Thank you, Inquirer.
Excuse - Mr Inquirer, could I just correct
an incorrect answer I gave to Ms Saraceni earlier?
Yes, that's fine, please do?---Just a matter
of fact. Ms Saraceni asked me whether - I think in
October/November 2011, my wife's company was working for
the Department of Local Government. The answer to that was
no, and it's still no, but Ms Saraceni asked me, "What
about WALGA?" At that time, her company was contracted to
WALGA to provide workshops for elected members on
integrated planning and reporting. One of those workshops
was actually conducted at the Civic Function Room at the
City of Canning. Occasionally, that room was hired out for
that purpose. So just to correct that.
very much.
I appreciate that, Mr Dacombe, thank you
Thank you.
Ms Saraceni?
Mr Dacombe, before lunch we were talking
about 13 December 2011, just in relation to the
So - - -?---Is the baby born yet?
Well, I was actually going to - now that you've said that,
I think it's more like a miscarriage rather than a still
birth or anything else?---Okay.
But moving on. You had meetings with the Mayor and the
Deputy Mayor on a couple of occasions in relation to issues
associated with Refocus - the running of Refocus, where to
from here. Is that correct? As I read the evidence, there
was one meeting held at the Mayor, Mr Delle Donne's house,
that you attended with the Deputy Mayor. Do you recall
One in West Perth, and one in Bentley. Do you recall any
of those meetings? I don't have dates, I'm sorry?---Yes,
but not in that timeframe.
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So - sorry, I don't have the dates, I should say, okay?
Were any of them after 13 December or were those meetings
before?---No, there was no - there was no discussion after
that meeting with the elected members until a meeting was
held on 12 January, but that basically didn't touch on
Refocus issues, it touched on a range of others that we
talked about.
So just to follow on from what you've said, the meetings
that you held with the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor
pre-13 December were dealing with issues associated with
Refocus?---Well, the first meeting which took place at the
Mayor's house, that Councillor Mason attended, I think was
in February 2010.
Okay?---And that was right - it was that meeting that I
basically put the proposal that now was time to change
Mm hmm?---And out of that came the decision then to bring
on Mike Richardson, which was made in March. The meeting
which took place in West Perth, that was a meeting that I
put possibly around the beginning of August, but I can't be
sure about that. And that was certainly to talk about the
issues that were going on, and from my point of view, I was
beginning to pick up how those were being dealt with
through the Refocus process. Now, that's two of them.
There was another one?
At Bentley I understand, is that correct? I don't have
anything more specific than Bentley?---There - there was a
meeting in the food hall, I wouldn't have called it a
meeting, I think. We were coming from somewhere, going to
somewhere, and stopped for a bite to eat. I couldn't
recall what was discussed.
All right. So if we go back then to 13 December 2011, and
we're looking forward?---Yep.
There was a Christmas Party held at the City of Canning
that year?---Yes.
Was it 24 December?---Yes. If it was - if that was a
weekday, that would be the day it was.
Now, you didn't attend that Christmas Party did you,
Mr Dacombe?---I did - - Not initially?---No, I wasn't there for the beginning of
it, no.
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You were in your office and I think Councillor Mason and
perhaps someone else came and got you and requested or
insisted that you attend the meeting?---No, I was - I had a
meeting - - Sorry, not the meeting, the Christmas Party I should
say?---Pardon? Yes. I had a meeting with the executive
team that morning where - I'm just trying to recall the
issues that were being discussed. But that was what I was
doing. And my recollection is they sent a staff member
over and said, "You better come now, the Mayor wants to
make a speech."
All right. And you were working on what needed to be done
after Refocus was (indistinct)?---I'm pretty sure that that
was centre to what we were talking about.
And you had a discussion with the Mayor on 24 December?---I
had a brief discussion with the Mayor at the event
saying - this is my recollection, of saying you know, "Can
we get together?"
And the get together was to discuss ongoing issues
And I think Councillor Mason was going to be in on that
meeting, and the first availability given the Christmas
holidays and the New Year holidays was early
January 2012?---Yeah, I think initially the suggestion was
that the Mayor and I would meet to talk about issues, but and I think the suggestion was his, which I was perfectly
comfortable with, that the Deputy Mayor be there as well.
I think that came afterwards though, just to be - - And so the meeting is then set for the morning of
12 January 2012?---Yeah, that's right, yeah.
And you knew that that meeting was to discuss, "Where to
from here”, in relation to Refocus, the work of the
Council - sorry, the work of the City,
et cetera?---The - the meeting - the way it had been
discussed, it was more about addressing specific issues.
Refocus at that point was off - was off the agenda. So
what we're talking about is the specific issues that
Councillors were concerned about.
That they wanted you to action?---Yes.
So there was a list of to-do, a to-do list, so to
speak?---There was a to-do list.
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For you, that was discussed with you at length on
12 January?---Discuss, I wouldn't - it was put to me, put
it that way.
So there was stuff you needed to do?---Yes.
Now, we've heard some evidence that at the very end of that
meeting the Mayor handed you a performance
document - - -?---Yep.
- - - and said words to the effect, let's see what you did,
what happened last year and we'll do the performance
review. There wasn't a performance review done there and
then on the spot. You were handed a document and the idea
was that you would have a performance review at which you
would contribute at another point in time?---No, the - the
idea was that the performance review had been done and it
was handed to me with the comment, you might like to sign
this. Just - you might like to - I can't actually recall it was basically inviting me to read it and sign it.
If you agreed, to sign it?---Yes.
There was no obligation on you to sign it?---No.
So to have input from you into that document?
what was being asked of you?---Mm hmm.
That was
Is that correct?---No. It was - it was - it was being
presented to me as a document that had been - been done.
There was no invitation to say, well, we'll meet after we
set a time to meet or anything like that. It was basically
read it and sign it if you agree to it.
I appreciate it was a while ago. You don't - didn't take
any notes at that meeting. Only - - -?---No.
- - - Mr Sharpe did?---No.
So his - the contemporaneous note that was taken at the
time. But the other thing that comes out from Mr Sharpe's
notes is that after that there was some discussion about
the need for you to then do the performance reviews of
those persons who were directly answerable to you?---Yes.
Now, that ought to have been done, given what you said
earlier this morning, between June 2011 and some time in
September 2011. In the normal course of events you ought
to have done the performance reviews of those who were
directly answerable to you. Is that correct?---If they if they were done in accordance with that cycle. I think
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though that this team had come on in November, had only
really got to grips with things in the New Year and so what
I had decided to do was that a year of Refocus, basically let a year elapse so that we had a reasonable period in
which to review.
Other than for Mr Sharpe, who had then a current contract,
for the new executive team, did they come on under a
probationary period of employment?---No. No.
And was it your view to even do a half-year review with
them, even if a full 12 months lapsed?---No. To me, I
think that what I was doing was I was meeting with them all
regularly and I think that - I think the cycle was - was I would sit down with each one of them on a weekly or
fortnightly basis and then there were executive meetings.
So I had a fair grip on what they were doing and where.
So the meeting concluded after about three and a half hours
on 12 January 2012 - - -?---Yes.
- - - roughly, and you went to your office or were you
already in your office? Is that where the meeting was
held?---No. It was in the Mayor's office.
In the Mayor's office.
So you went back to your
You then went back into the Mayor's office where you found
the Mayor and Councillor Mason. Do you remember that,
after a short while?---No. No, no.
Well, both the Mayor and Councillor Mason, is my
recollection - Councillor Mason definitely has said that
that's what occurred. They stayed in - in the Mayor's
office, talking, and about 10 minutes later you came back.
You say that's not true?---Yes, I came back. I didn't come
back and do what their - Councillor Mason's evidence says.
Well - - -?---And I don't think I came back.
Well, let's just - one thing at a time?---Yes.
Basically - - -?---I understand.
- - - Councillor Mason very clearly says you came back into
the Mayor's office after about 10 minutes and you had a
piece of paper with you. Do you accept that or not, or you
don't remember?---I don't recall going back into the
office. What I do recall is going back to my office and and - and reading the performance review.
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All right. Now, HLS Legal you mentioned in your evidence
How did you get a referral to the law firm HLS Legal, which
specialises in employment law, as I understand it?---How
did I get a referral?
Yes. You didn't look it up in the Yellow Pages, did
you?---No. Back in December, when I considered that I
probably needed to talk to a lawyer, I - I called one of
the Council's legal people, Michael Hardy of Hardy Bowen,
and said who do you know in this field. So that was the
And that was before - sorry; between 13 December 2011 and
the Christmas break. That's when you made - - -?---That's
- - - the contact?---Yes.
So, Michael Hardy gave you the referral and you contacted
HLS Legal?---I did.
And that was a phone contact you had?---Yes, it was.
Before you went on the Christmas break did you physically
meet with John Long from HLS Legal?---The initial contact
wasn't with John Long. He was on - - Who was that with?--- - - - leave, I think.
the name but I could easily - - -
I can't recall
David Helsinger?---That could very well be.
A South African, short? Sorry. I just - all right. It's
not John Long but it's one of the partners at - - -?---It
was one of the partners - - - - - HLS Legal?--- - - - at HLS.
All right.
Well - no.
The other gentleman is Tony Smetana?---No.
He's not HLS.
Tony Smetana?---Maybe I didn't hear
Sorry, Tony Smetana?---Sorry, I thought you said Dennis
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Merrill Corporation Australia
No, no, no.
So you spoke to them - - -?---Yes.
- - - and that was a physical meeting, so you were saying,
or over the phone? Where are their offices,
Mr Dacombe?---Their offices are in West Perth.
Ventnor Avenue?---Yes.
So did you physically meet with them before
Christmas?---Look, I'm not sure whether the - whether again I can verify this, but I'm not sure whether the
meeting actually took place before Christmas or not - or
Now, you're going to see lawyers about your employment
status. I assume that's what you were talking to them
You were well aware that that was important because you'd
had that experience in New Zealand when you were at
Waitakere. Is that not correct?---No. What experience was
Dealing with lawyers about your employment and what to do
to part company?---I'd certainly been through that
experience before. Yeah.
So you have a discussion, a meeting with someone from HLS
Legal. The New Year comes in, so we're into January, the
first week in January 2012. Do you have further contact
with someone from HLS Legally, either verbally - so orally,
by phone or by writing?---There was definitely a meeting in
January and there may have been two, so - that's why I
can't actually place whether one took place between before Christmas or both after.
But before 12 January 2012 you had met with someone from
HLS Legal, one of - one of the partners there?---Yes.
And you had obtained legal advice about your employment
status at the City of Canning?---Yes.
And is it also correct that you were given some options in
relation to what you could do, given the terms of your
contract?---We certainly talked about options.
And was one of the options that you should resign?---No.
Was one of the options that you should put something in
writing to your employer, a please explain type
letter?---No. One - one option was - and this may have had
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that as an aspect of it, was just - was to push on and
basically see how it played out. The other was to discuss
an agreed termination in accordance with the provisions of
the contract.
A mutual parting of the ways if I could say it - -?---Yeah.
- - - that way?---Mm.
And there was some discussion about money, monetary
compensation for a mutual parting of the ways?---Yeah, I there's a legislative provision to that and that related to
the contract provision and so yes, there was some
discussion around that.
And you discussed with your wife the various options that
had been put to you by HLS Legal?---Indeed.
And before the meeting of 12 January, isn't it correct that
you'd formed a view as to what would be in your best
interests, as what to do with your employment moving
forward?---No. No, the trigger for actually going down the
path that I went down was the unilateral performance
agreement - performance assessment. So at that point it
was clear to me that the breakdown was terminal.
Well, not from your perspective. Not from the Council’s
perspective?---Well, I think - - Insofar as you were concerned, you thought you couldn’t
continue to work there?---I thought that the actions of the
Council, the cumulative actions of the Council, culminating
in the presentation of the performance agreement, was an
absolute demonstration that the relationship had broken
down from their side as - I accepted that.
So the relationship outside of Refocus?---Well, the
performance review wasn’t about Refocus solely. It was
about my management of the organisation.
No, but I’m just talking to you, Mr Dacombe, sorry, about
before you go into the meeting of 12 January - - -?---Yes.
- - - and what your expectations are, what - what, if any,
decisions you had made in relation to your ongoing
employment before you get to the meeting of 12 January. So
in that light?---That the relationship had broken down.
Yes, as - as I say, the trigger for that final conclusion
was the document - basically the manner in which the
meeting was conducted and the document. Sorry if I’m
missing your point.
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No, no, Mr Dacombe, I’m just taking you to a
period - - -?---Yeah.
- - - immediately before the meeting, and I’m sorry if I
haven’t asked the question clearly?---No, that’s fine.
So we’re talking about a period between 13 December 2011
and 11 January 2012, the day before the meeting, let’s
say - - -?---Yeah.
- - - because the meeting was held in the morning at about
8.30?---Yes, yeah.
So in that period you had time to mull over - - - ?---Yes.
- - - you - sorry, in that period you’d already spoken to to a partner at HLS Legal and got some legal
There - you weren’t at work, because City of Canning closed
down for a period of time over the holidays, didn’t
So you were mulling over, weren’t you - - -?---Yeah.
- - - your future, whether you stay at the City of Canning
or not?---Yes.
Your wife’s business is progressing nicely at that point in
time?---She was happy with it.
And you’re considering all the options that you - you were available to you, and one of those options, as you’ve
already said, was the parting of the ways?---Yes.
Now, you weren’t going to allow them to sack you, were
you?---Well, no.
It would not have done your reputation any good, would
Particularly because you’d already decided that you were
going to work as a consultant in your wife’s business and
eventually become a director of that business?---Well, that
was a long-term plan.
That’s why you migrated to Australia, wasn’t it?---Pardon?
That’s why you migrated to Australia. Get away from your
family, the history in New Zealand?---No, absolutely not.
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You saw my history in New Zealand, and that was - there’s
certainly nothing to escape from there, Ms Saraceni.
So before you go into the meeting of 12
need to make very, very clear that I’ve
correctly, you had already decided that
was parting of ways. Yes?---Well, yes,
January, I
one of the
yeah, yes,
You weren’t going to allow yourself to be sacked, were
you? You’ve said no?---Well, no.
And you weren’t going to resign, were you?---No.
So the only option that you saw was a mutual parting of the
ways?---I had not come to the conclusion that that was the
only option on 11 January. There were two options in
place, and I - my mind was open enough to see how
12 January played out, but I was very clear.
And you did receive something in writing from HLS Legal at
some point in time talking about the - the - the way the
mutual parting could take place. That’s correct, isn’t
it? Written - - -?---Yeah, I saw the - I saw - - - - - a written advice saying you could do X, Y, Z,
three months’ notice, you could get this much payments?---Yeah, I certainly had advice from - I couldn’t
tell you exactly what was in it, but obviously canvassed
the - canvassed the situation - the option.
And that advice that was in writing to you, do you recall
if the letter or email, whatever it was, was written to you
in the first person or the third person?---Got no idea.
When - when you read the letter or the email does it say
“you”? “You have the right to compensation. You must give
three months’ notice.” Or does it say, “Mark Dacombe is
entitled to X, Y, Z”? Is it more formal or less
formal?---It’s probably less formal.
Okay. I put it to you, Mr Dacombe, that you had received
written advice from HLS Legal before the meeting of
12 January; that you then prepared - you - you uplifted
some stuff from whatever they sent you electronically. You
prepared that into a one-page document which we’ve already
seen, which sets out three months’ notice. Sorry, I don’t
remember the name - number of the document. Three months’
notice and all the compensation that you’re entitled to,
and that at the meeting of 12 January 2012 - at the
conclusion of the meeting you go back to your office. You
don’t read the performance review. What you do is you go
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to your computer and you actually - you actually download
either what you’ve prepared or you cut and paste there and
then what HLS Legal has given you as advice, and you then
walk back into the Mayor’s office with that typed document
and you hand it to the Mayor, and your words are along the
lines of, “I can go. These are the terms”?---No, that’s
And the Mayor said to you - the Mayor said to you, “It’s
not signed. I won’t accept it”?---That is wrong.
Document 416.
Beg your pardon?
Document 416, I think it is, ladies. We
could just bring that up for just a moment. Make sure
we’re talking about the same document.
Which number is that?
416 I believe it’s numbered. It’s the
one-page document that was looked at yesterday in relation
to - - KENDALL, DR:
The - the termination requirements?
Yes. Cessation payments rather than
termination. You comfortable with “Cessation”, or you
happy with “Termination”, Mr Dacombe?
My words.
however you like.
I apologise.
You can refer to it
I think that looked like the document.
Could we have the handwritten notes one? That’s fine.
Sorry, was there a moment ago and then it’s just gone.
No, no, it’s fine.
We’re not in a rush.
Yes. Mr Dacombe, that handwriting on that
document, is that yours?---Yeah.
Now, a document marked without prejudice and confidential,
you put that there because of your past experience, and you
have an understanding - a layperson’s understanding of what
it means to write “Without prejudice and confidential” on a
document?---No, no. I certainly put that there.
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Or was - or was an HLS Legal - - - ?---Is there - pardon?
Was that an HLS Legal - - - ?---No, no, I prepared that
Did HLS Legal have any input into what’s in that document
at all?---I - I discussed that document with them
post-12 January.
Well, the evidence of Mr Mason and the Mayor, as I
understand it, is that that was handed to them on
12 January. You - they were - said that, no, it’s not
signed. You took it away and then after a week, on
19 January, you then fronted up with that same document,
but this time it was signed. And if we could just go to
the - scroll to the bottom of that document, make sure that
that has a signature on it. No, it’s not signed?---Look at
the date on it.
Yes. I don’t have any difficulties with dates. Dates can
be changed very quickly. If I print a document today from
my computer it will say today’s date. 19 January is - on
the evidence that Councillor Mason and I think the Mayor
has given is that the second time that this document is
produced - - -?---Yes.
- - - that it’s signed. I notice this one’s not signed,
but there is a signed one on the records of the Inquiry.
So 19 January, when you’ve got the signed document, it is
signed then, isn’t it? This document is signed on
19 January, or do you hand over an unsigned copy for the
second time?---I believe that this remained unsigned.
It remained unsigned. But these were the - - -?---I can’t
be certain of that, but that’s my belief. Now, there were
two meetings, but the date - your dates are wrong. The
first meeting, I came back to the Mayor with the first
draft of that on the 18th, the day before the 19th.
On 18 January? Where did that meeting take place?---In the
Mayor's office.
In the Mayor's office?---So I came into the Mayor's office,
he was there alone, and I said to him - that was where I
said to him, "I've read the performance agreement, I don't
agree with it, I don't accept it." I said that it's clear
that - I think I may have used the words, "That you and the
Council see that I'm a problem. Given where we've reached
I think, and I would be prepared to open discussions on a
mutual termination of the contract." And from that, there
was a brief discussion around - well, "I'll need to talk to
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Merrill Corporation Australia
the Deputy Mayor." He said, "Perhaps we should leave the
discussion of this until we can meet with him so we don't
have to go over it twice”, and that's where we agreed on
the meeting to take place on the 19th. That meeting did
take place.
Yes?---It was a reasonably amicable discussion, I thought.
It was a business proposition at that point, isn't
it?---That was a business proposition, and from there
the - I took the reception to be reasonably positive. And
from there, I went back to HOS and had the - and you'll see
the reference on there to a draft deed of settlement.
Your deed, yes?---I had that - I had them draft that up.
And that was sent to me on 23 January, and I passed that
straight on to the Mayor. And then the sequence took place
with the meeting in the evening.
Now, Mr Dacombe, at the meeting on 12 January or the
meeting of 18 January or the meeting of 19 January that
you've just spoken about, there was no gun held to your
head to say, "Resign or else”, was there? There was no
pressure on you to bring - to end the contract?---No, I
opened that discussion.
In fact - - -?---But - - In fact, Mr Dacombe, the discussion on 12 January gave you
a list of things to do, as you've said, and those
things - that list of things to do was going to take more
than one week, i.e. 19 January. It was going to take
longer than that to do. There were some long term things
that you needed to take care of, correct?---Yes.
So it was your free will, free choice to decide to want to
part company with the City of Canning?---Well, yes.
And the terms of payment and compensation and deed,
et cetera, your main concern there was that one, you would
get properly compensated, but two, that your reputation
would remain in intact and that how it was announced, how
your parting of ways with the City of Canning was announced
was going to be focused on, because you wanted it to come
out in a particular way. Is that not correct?---I was
concerned about the reputations of both sides, so yes.
That's what this business deal was about, was saying,
"Okay, we've gone as far as we can go here." I didn't walk
into the room pointing any finger at anyone, and you know,
basically I was saying it was time to recognise - from my
point of view, it's time to recognise that this is done.
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We can do this, you can get on with your business and run
the show the way you want to run it, and I'll go off into
the sunset and do whatever I wanted. So as I saw it, it
was a discussion of equals.
Definitely. And in relation to handover, et cetera, and
for a smooth transition, once you come to some agreement in
relation to the basis of the parting of the ways, there was
some discussion that you ought not work out your notice.
That you make yourself available from home if and when
No? So gardening leave was not discussed?---Absolutely
not. And - absolutely not.
Are you saying that gardening leave was not discussed at
all?---Gardening leave, which I take as quite an offensive
term - - It's very Australian, I don't know what you say in
New Zealand?---Pardon?
It's very Australian, I don't know what you say in
New Zealand?---Yeah, but it means a certain thing, not the
way it was described the other day.
Mr Dacombe - - -?---There was absolutely no discussion
about me taking leave on the payroll. So what I'd offered
to do is work out the three months' notice and have a
proper handover, a proper formal and detailed handover, but
I was prepared to reduce that by agreement.
But they chose not to offer you to work out your notice,
but to keep paying you and, "Don't bother coming in."
That's what happened at the end of the day. If you don't
want to call it gardening leave, you were still being paid
your normal pay once a month, is that correct?---That's
what happened on 30 January.
Yes. You didn't get a lump-sum payment at that stage, did
you?---No, there was no agreement at that point.
No. But you never got a lump-sum payment until the very
end, is that correct?---That's right.
So what you did get is you had your normal pay, even though
you didn't front up to work for about three months, and
then whatever was left you got in a lump-sum at the
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And in fact, they didn't call on you did they, to do
anything within that three month period?---No.
All right. Mr Dacombe, I just wanted to take you to two
final matters that you've been asked questions on earlier,
and this one looks really at the engineering services. I'm
not quite sure why it's done this way, but this was issue
number 11. And what I wanted to speak to you about very
briefly is the advice from McLeods, document 1947, the
advice from McLeods of 12 January 2011. Do you recall you
gave some evidence about this yesterday?---I missed the
subject, sorry.
So in relation to this document that's just on the
screen?---Okay, yes, absolutely.
Mr Gomes, you see that there?---Yes.
Now, isn't it correct that when documents come in to the
City of Canning, there's a requirement to print them and
stamp on them the fact that they've been received and the
date of receipt?---Yes, yes.
And that was - that would be correct even if the document
is received electronically?---That should be the case.
This document does not bear any sign from City of Canning
acknowledging receipt of it, does it? Perhaps if you could
scroll down so that Mr Dacombe has the opportunity to have
a look?---No.
Now, this letter as you can see at the top was sent to
Mr Gomes, CCed to Mr Jefferies. Was it Mr Gomes that
brought this letter to you? He printed it from his
computer and brought you a copy. Is that what happened, or
did he send it to you electronically?---I don't recall
getting it from Mr Gomes.
Do you recall getting it from Mr Jefferies?---I was asked
about this yesterday, and I subsequently checked, and the
letter content was made by the solicitor from McLeods
seeking Mr Sullivan. Mr Sullivan wasn't available, so it
was referred to Mr Jefferies and Mr Jefferies did send the
letter to me.
And you printed a hardcopy or did he?---I think I probably
printed a hardcopy.
Now, in the normal course of events, for the document to
become part of the records of the City of Canning, it would
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need to be stamped as you've just already said, received
and a date?---Well, I understand - - Sorry, is that correct, that's what would happen?---Sorry,
Ms Saraceni.
That's what would normally happen?---That is the case.
But it didn't happen here?---Not on that copy, no.
Did it happen on any copy?---Well, what I was going to say
was that my understanding is that McLeods always sent a
hardcopy. So a hardcopy from them to Mr Gomes, and that
would have come through the central records system.
Now - I'm just telling you what the procedure was.
Yes. And so that hardcopy that comes in, it doesn't
surprise me that McLeods would send a hardcopy at the end
of the day, but there is - you had no control over that
document when it arrived, did you?---No.
So you don't know if it actually did arrive or if - and if
it did arrive, whether it was stamped as per the normal
procedure?---Well, I believe it was, but I can't point you
to any document that says that.
Now, in fact, in relation to this document and this - these
events that this is talking about you decided to take a
proactive approach as CEO, didn’t you?---Yes.
So you weren’t doing strategic stuff. You actually did
some practical operational stuff in relation to this
matter, correct?---I - well, I certainly did.
And, in fact, this letter is dated 12 January, correct? If
it goes back up. 12 January. In fact, on 14 January you
emailed Jeff Owen and McLeods. Do you recall that?---I
certainly had contact with Jeff Owen.
There was an email dated 14 January 2011 from you to Jeff
Owen at McLeods?---Yeah.
You’ve CCed Kevin Jefferies. The “Re” is, “Tender for
engineering services”, and your email says, and I quote and I’m sure the ladies will bring it up shortly:
Jeff, I’m very unhappy with this opinion and would
ask that you recall it for further work. I would
then request that we meet to discuss the matter.
Recall that?---That’s right.
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Do you then recall that same day receiving a response in
writing from Jeff Owen at McLeods? And Jeff says:
I’m quite prepared to do so if there are some facts
which I did not properly understand or were not
supplied to me. Can you please ring me to discuss?
Do you recall receiving that email from Mr Owen?---Yes, I
think so, yes. And I certainly had a discussion with them.
You then had a telephone call with him. Now, Mr Jeff Owen
there properly states, because lawyers - we have code of
ethics that we comply to. Code of conduct as well. And he
has said that he will relook at his advice if the facts
were not properly understood by him or some were not
supplied to him. They would be the only basis upon which
he would take that back. That’s what it says, isn’t
You understood that?---Yes.
So he indicated very clearly to you that he was not
prepared to change his advice just because you didn’t like
it. That’s what it says, isn’t it?---That’s what he says.
So you rang him and you repeated your request that he
withdraw the letter. What did you say to him was the
reason that you wanted that letter withdrawn?---I - I said
to him the reasons that - that - well, I - I said to him
the reasons that I’ve outlined here before, that the advice
was unhelpful. It muddied the waters. It simply - - Thank you, ladies. I think the document’s just up there.
No, that’s the - - THE WITNESS:
It simply repeated advice that I’d already
given the Council. It - it - it would muddy the waters in
terms of the political process that I was trying to support
and manage, and it added nothing to getting to the final
All right. Sorry, Mr Dacombe. I’ve just
been a little bit distracted. There’s another email up
there. It’s not the one I was referring to, but that one
is interesting. If we could just look at that for a
moment. 13 January. It actually predates the emails that
I’ve taken you to?---Yeah.
From Mr Jefferies to you. Jeff Owen, who’s a lawyer from
McLeods, contacted Kevin Jefferies, who’s written the
email, when you were away. Do you know what he’s referring
20/11/2013 3:05
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to? When you were away when? Did you go away over the
Christmas/New Year break or the start of January? Or is he
talking about when you - - -?---Maybe I - maybe - - November?---No. Maybe it was a day that I wasn’t sitting
in my office, Ms Saraceni.
And Mr Owen alerted me to the fact that they - “They” being McLeods:
- had concerns about the process around the
engineering consultancy services tender. I asked
that he send it to us as well as to Colin Gomes.
So that letter is - that is the pre - predecessor email to
the one that I have just read out to you.
And if we look, ladies, to 14 January 2011 there are a
series of emails.
After that phone call you had with Mr Owen you then wrote
another email to Mr Owen on 14 January. Do you recall that
one there?---Yes.
And I think this is the last in the chain of emails when
you said to Mr Owen:
The main issue is ours. The request that came to you
for a written opinion was not authorised by me, and
neither was it specifically authorised by the
resolution, which is, in fact, misquoted. The
process therefore does not comply with the Council
policy on the commissioning of written legal advice.
That’s - they are your words?---Yes.
But I’m more interested in the last - the next paragraph:
The matter is very sensitive.
Why was it very sensitive?---It was very sensitive in the
context of - of the view that certain elected members had
that the staff were working to thwart them, and this landed
in the middle of a particularly difficulty period in the
relationship between your client and my executive
engineering and technical services. It was - - -
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That’s Mr Jefferies?--- - - - an appallingly difficult
relationship for me to manage, and I did not want anything
landing on the table that looked like I was working or
Charles Sullivan was working to undermine what they want to
do - wanted to do. So - - So you were trying to appease those above you and protect
those - - - ?---No, because I had a very - I had - - - - - subordinate to you?--- - - - I had given - I had
given this advice. I had - I had - I basically had been
given this advice. I’d been given an instruction that
they’d had some difficulties with it, but what I was
looking to do was find a way, and no appeasement at all find a way to - to - - Well, what was it, Mr Dacombe?---Pardon?
What was it? You were covering your own back?---Well well, the - this - - It was - - - ?--- - - - since you asked - since you asked
the question, there seems to be an impression that there
are two - there’s a right way of an executive relating to a
Council and it’s got to be like this. And for most things
- and I accept that there are technical issues that this
isn’t the case, but for most things there’s more than one
way of looking at it, and - and so quite often the CEO’s
legitimate role, particularly if you’re headed to a more
modern and innovative and engaged Council with the
community, is to support your elected members to work their
way through various options and come to something that
actually represents their view of the world. And that’s
not - it’s not right and it’s not wrong. So my approach
with this Council and every other Council that I’ve worked
with is to work as closely as I can with the elected
members to give them the result that they’re achieving
provided, you know, a - certain criteria are met. Now,
what I found in the City of Canning, the culture that we
talk about was that - and you’ve seen it in some of the and a lot of the reports and recommendations that went up that there was one right way. Now, as I say, more often
than not there’s not one right way. There’s a range, and
what I was trying to do was work with the elected members
to more closely support their decision making.
All right. Well, thank you for that, Mr Dacombe.
email continues. You say this:
The matter is very sensitive.
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There is a political
- - - here as well as a legal one.
?---That’s right.
And that’s what you’ve just described?---Yes.
So you’re very sensitive always, aren’t you, to the
political dynamics in play?---Yes. Well, absolutely, in
the context of what I’ve described to you.
And you’ve learned that from past experience in New Zealand
dealing with Councils, haven’t you?---No, I’ve learned that
- that for high-delivering Councils to their communities,
the strongest - the - the - one of the key factors, if not
the key factor, is the ability of the executive to work
with the elected members in a collaborative manner. That’s
the culture on that side of the coin that I was trying to to develop.
All right. Mr Dacombe, moving on from that email, did you
and Charles Sullivan or anyone else go and meet with
Mr Jeff Owen to finalise this issue about the letter and
its contents?---I - I - there may have been a meeting.
There may have been a meeting.
And is it also correct that on 24 February 2011, so about
six weeks later, Jeff Owen sends you an email when he asks
- or says:
Hopefully this is back on track.
an account for the work we did?
Is it okay to send
Do you recall receiving that email?---I recall seeing the
account. I can’t actually recall the email.
You recall seeing the account. Do you remember roughly
what - how much it was for?---I think about $2,000.
All right. Now, leaving that. I think the last issue that
I need to speak to you about is the issue of governance.
Thanks, ladies.
There’s some evidence been given previously about
governance-type matters. I just wanted to ask you briefly
about the compliance audit returns?---Yes.
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Now, I take that the one that was done for the 2009 year
was not long after you started?---Yeah.
So the fact that Andrew Sharpe completed it and signed it
perhaps is not the end of the world. But what about 2010?
You had been at the Council a good year and a half if not
more by the time of the 2010 compliance audit. What if any
involvement did you have in completing the 2010 annual
audit return for the Department?---I didn’t have hands
on - - Sorry, for provision to the Department, I should say, for
the City of Canning?---Yeah. I didn’t have hands-on
involvement in completing it. But it was reviewed - was
discussed with me by Andrew I believe on an exceptions
basis but - but we certainly discussed it. Then it went
through the executive process and onto the Council agenda.
This was purely a compliance exercise tick and flick.
That’s what happened, isn’t it, Mr Dacombe? That was your
review of this document?---(No audible answer).
“Has that been ticked? Yes, okay, next, next.” You didn’t
do anything positive - positively to check the accuracy of
what was in this return, did you?---I didn’t do a personal
audit of it, no.
But you didn’t even ask any questions of
anyone - - -?---It’s - - - - - did you?---Well, I believe I did.
What, “Mr Sharpe, is this correct?” And he said,
“Yes”?---He wrote - he - we went - he - we - as I recall we
went through it. It was discussed with him. He pointed
out any issues that he felt needed to be pointed out. It
went to the executive team and there was a discussion of it
at that point. But I certainly relied on - I certainly
relied on the information having been collected and
presented correctly.
And it was - the discussion was perfunctory. There was
nothing much discussed other than, “Here it is, happens
every year, we’re obliged to do it, have you gone through
it? Okay, yes, okay, off you go.” That was it. More or
less that’s all that happened, wasn’t it?---Well - - Mr Sharpe may have done more but that’s all you did?---I
certainly asked the question.
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You didn’t even sign the letter at the end of the
day?---No. The - - It went out under your name but you did not sign that
letter?---That’s right.
Another example of things going out when you are telling
the Department, hand on heart, “This is what the City of
Canning has done, we are compliant, I am the CEO, I stand
behind it, we are compliant.” That’s what you were saying.
But there was no substance to it, was there?---Well, I
believe there was.
Well, Mr Dacombe, when you look at that, the letter to
McLeods that you tried to hide, get rid of, made it - make
it disappear, what - what sort of ethics were you working
with?---I was very - very clear on the fact that letter was
not authorised by me. And I’ve been through that. There’s
no ethical issue there from my point of view at all. I
certainly managed the compliance audit approach on the
basis of asking key questions along the lines of what you
said. I was absolutely relying on the people that put it
together. And I certainly can’t see any ethical issue in
that at all.
You had a very hands-off management style, didn’t you,
Mr Dacombe?---I think - - Well, that’s - that’s correct statement, isn’t
That’s a correct statement? You had a very hands-off
management style?---I did not personally get involved in
auditing people’s work or that sort of thing, absolutely.
I focused on the direction of the City.
And let me guess - - -?---And making sure the systems - - - - - strategy stuff, strategic stuff?---- - - were in
Strategic stuff?---While making sure that the right people
were in the right place to do the operational and
regulatory and compliance stuff.
Just to conclude, Mr Dacombe, just take you back to
section 5.41 of the Local Government Act which sets out
very neatly the functions of a CEO. And I just want to ask
you a series of questions and that will be the end of it
from me. You - you’re relieved. The CEO’s functions are,
at subsection (a):
20/11/2013 3:15
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To advise the Council in relation to the functions of
a Local Government under the Act and other written
You did not provide that advice personally, did you?---On
the functions of the Council? I would certainly say they
had extensive advice on that from me through the strategic
processes that we were putting in place for it under the
Refocus banner.
Well, Mr Dacombe, Refocus didn’t come to life for at least
18 months or 16 months from when you started. It - it had
a life for a period of time and then before you left it had
stopped having a life. Do - are you saying that you
advised the Council personally in relation to the - to its
functions under the Act and other written laws?---Yes,
through the processes that were in place to do that.
And where did the work of Mr Sharpe intersect with what
you’ve just said in relation to advising on Local
Government functions under the Act and other written
laws?---Mr Sharpe’s advice? Mr Sharpe provided advice on
procedural issues. The functions - - And functions under the Act?---He provided some advice in
that area.
Yes. Including the compliance audit returns that we’ve
seen?---He - he signed off the compliance audit.
And then moving on.
One of the other functions at (b) is
Ensure - ensure. Ensure, as I understand it, is almost like a
guarantee. Would you accept that?---(No audible answer).
Another word for “Ensure” is “Guarantee”?---No, it’s to
Yes. So it’s not just to check. It’s to almost
guarantee. Ensure that something is done a particular
So when it says at 5.14(b):
Ensure that advice and information is available to
the Council so that informed decisions can be made -
20/11/2013 3:20
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- that places a very high onus on you as the CEO, doesn’t
it?---That’s right.
Did you ensure that advice and information available to the
Council was such that they could make an informed
decision?---Well, I would say yes.
And you (indistinct) - - -?---I would say - - - - - despite what happened in relation
to - - -?---Well - - - - - the Bannister Road Works Project?---I would say I
made every effort to ensure that the Council had in front
of it the information they needed to make informed
And you did that - - -?---Now, whether you can - whether
you can point to some deficiencies in that, fine. But I
made every possible effort to ensure that that happened.
And (c), that you needed to:
Cause Council decisions to be implemented.
So you - you feel happy that when Council said, “X is going
to happen”, that you made sure that people did what Council
Or did they keep coming back with recommendations that they
had made the first time even though Council had rejected
them, as we’ve looked at earlier today re Centenary Avenue
because that’s what the officers and through them you
wanted to do?---Sorry, I lost - I lost the drift of that
Yes, it was poorly worded. I apologise, Mr Dacombe.
5.14(c) says that you must as CEO, must:
Cause Council decisions to be implemented.
You’re saying to the Inquiry that every decision that
Council made you - you actually implemented through your
staff?---Through my staff?
20/11/2013 3:20
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Yes?---I mean, the answer to that quite clearly is that the
decisions of Council after they were made went into a
process to be implemented. Some would be implemented the
next day if they were a planning decision or something like
that. Others might end up on a longer time frame, in which
case there was a schedule of outstanding - outstanding
business. But certainly the objective was that all Council
decisions were implemented. Now, you put an addendum to
that question.
Yes?---There was certainly no - no intent, the way it was
put to me earlier today, just simply to take decisions of
Council back to them unless there was a particular reason
to do so. And that actually didn’t happen very often at
All right. Just two more questions and I think we’ll be
through. 5.41(h) places on you as a CEO a requirement to:
Ensure - that word “Ensure” again:
Ensure that records and documents of the Local
Government are properly kept for the purposes of this
Act and any other written law
?---That's right.
Now, do you say that that occurred all the time,
particularly given we have just finished looking at the
McLeods letter?---The - the records systems, when - when I
took up the role, weren’t - weren’t satisfactory; there was
a lot of paper-based stuff. And a key project early in
that process was to update and modernise those systems and
put in place a fully automated records management system.
So you know, obviously I inherited what I inherited and I
took action to - to address that.
Some stop-gap, short-term measures or only long-term
measures under Refocus?---I actually think that project may
have - may - excuse me - I think that project may have
pre-dated Refocus, I think it may have stared in - early
than that but it’s neither - neither here nor there from my
point of view that - that it was a comprehensive and quite
expensive project to deal with that records issue.
And to conclude, Mr Dacombe, section 5.41(d) has a function
that - of the CEO, one of the functions is:
20/11/2013 3:25
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To manage the day-to-day operations of the Local
?---That's right.
Not only the strategic operations, but to manage the
day-to-day operations - - -?---Right.
- - - of the Local Government?---That's right.
Do you say that you managed the day-to-day operations of
the Local Government?---Through - through the employment of
appropriate people, absolutely.
I have no further questions.
Thank you, Mr Inquirer.
Thank you, Ms Saraceni.
Mr Renton, do you have anything say?
Inquirer, if we could just take a 10-minute
break before moving to the next counsel. And through you,
may I inquire as to whether the witness feels content to
continue the cross-examination after that break?
Are you - are your suggesting that his not?
Well, if you want to make an inquiry of the
witness if he’s happy to proceed?
That’s fine.
I recognise, Mr Dacombe, it’s been quite a long day. Would
you rather end now and come back tomorrow or continue for
another hour?---No, I - I do - Inquirer, I do have
commitments that I, you know, need to get back to so - - All right?---- - - that - I prefer to carry on and - - And you’re find with that, Mr Urquhart?
Yes, I am, sir.
That’s fine.
Then we’ll take a 10-minute break and then we’ll come back.
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(Short adjournment)
DACOMBE, MARK OSMOND recalled on former affirmation:
Thank you.
Mr Urquhart?
Yes, thank you very much, sir.
Thank you.
Mr Dacombe, I want to start off with an
area that’s been already covered a couple of times in
cross-examination of you, and I understand that we don’t
want to harp on this for too long, but I just want to see
whether we’ve got this right now, because your - and this
is to do with the delegation that you made from time to
time to Mr Sharpe, and - and I’m concentrating on - here
with obligations that the Council had to comply with
legislation. Now, your evidence to the Inquiry last month
was that you, as I understood it, delegated to Mr Sharpe
any advice that was required at Council meetings regarding
standing orders. Is that right?---Yes.
Right. And as I understand your evidence to questions last
month by counsel assisting - that that delegation also
extended on occasions to Mr Sharpe to provisions of the
Local Government Act?---In the - the short answer to that the short answer to that is yes, but also to other
executives as was appropriate.
I see. Right. Yes, and I was referring to page 79, just
for the record, of your transcript last month. And your
evidence was that it also extended to procedural matters,
which I suppose is all rolled up into that
delegation?---Well - - Such - such as whether a vote required an absolute majority
or not?---Well, that - that generally was worked out in
advance and included in the agenda.
Right. But were you relying on whatever advice you got
from Mr Sharpe in relation to that?---Well, from Mr Sharpe
and the executives concerned.
And the - I - I apologise if you already answered this
question, but did you delegate to Mr Sharpe matters
relating to codes of conduct?---No.
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Right. So advice to Council relating to its functions
under the Local Government Act and other written laws was
delegated by you on occasions to either Mr Sharpe or other
members of the executive?---Yes.
And do you accept that responsibility for that advice was
vested in you as CEO?---That’s right.
And we’ve already been through section 451A - - -?---Yeah.
- - - of the Local Government Act. Now, I know you came
from another jurisdiction and I know you commenced the
position of CEO of Canning in February of 2009, but I
gather that - and I know that the Local Government Act is
quite a voluminous piece of legislation, but I gather you
have at least read part 5 of the Local Government Act, and
that relates to administration - that you would have at
least read that part - - - ---Yes.
- - - before you began your position as CEO?---Yes.
So these delegations that we’ve spoken about to Mr Sharpe
and other members of the executive, those delegations
weren’t in writing, were they?---I’ve used the word
“Delegation”. The functions of each of the executive in
their areas would be covered by their job descriptions,
contracts and - and delegation, which would include giving
advice in their particular areas of responsibility
(indistinct) there.
I’m - I’m talking about advice to Council with respect to
the Local Government Act and any other written laws, to
quote section 5.41(a). Now, you personally did not
delegate those responsibilities of yours to Mr Sharpe or
other members of the executive in writing, did you?---In in terms of - - Can we just - can I just have an answer to that
question?---Well, it was going to be a yes-or-no answer yes-and-no answer (indistinct).
So it was going to be both?---It can be both. Now, what I
was saying is that in the area of the standing orders I
certainly asked Andrew to - to ride shotgun, if you like,
on that, and that’s not in writing. I would expect covered by the general delegations to the various officers
and their, as I say, employment agreements to have covered
off the issue of providing advice in their areas of
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Did you check?---I can’t say that - I can’t say that is the
case as I sit here.
Well, I’m going to suggest to you that you did not?---Did
not check?
Mm?---Well, I can’t recall specifically doing that, no.
I just want to show you - and
it to you. It’s section 5.44
and this might be easier than
than me reading it out. Says
I’ll hand up a hard copy of
of the Local Government Act,
- for you to follow, rather
under the heading:
CEO may delegate powers and duties to other
Subsection (1):
A CEO may delegate to any employee of the Local
Government the exercise of any of the CEO’s powers or
the discharge of the CEO’s duties under this Act
other than this power of delegation.
And subsection (2):
A delegation under this section is to be in writing
and may be general or as otherwise provided in the
instrument of delegation.
Now, I gather, given the fact that you would have read
part 5 before you began your job, because it dealt with
administration matters - you would have read that?---I’ve
read that. I’ve also read the delegations and I’ve also
been involved in the review of the delegations once, if not
more times, while I’ve been there.
Right. And did you discover that they were in
The delegations. I’m talking about those. The delegations
of your duties under section 5.41(a). That’s what I’m
concentrating on there?---Understand that.
Am I right in saying from your evidence that you didn’t
personally yourself make any written delegation
specifically to Mr Sharpe or any other members of the
executive when it came to delegating your responsibilities
under section 41(a)?---Not over and above what will be
included in the delegations in the formal delegation
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So the formal delegation manual. You’ve - well, you’re not
talking about their contracts?---Well, I’m talking about
their contracts and the delegations to - to the CEO and
You’re just making a guess there, aren’t you, because you
haven’t got a specific recollection of
checking - - -?---I - - - - - such delegations if they exist?---No, what I - I’m I - I - sorry. Excuse me. Maybe I should have - what I’m
saying to you is there was a process for reviewing those.
You’ve asked me whether - whether I specifically checked
delegations related to each of those officers. I can’t
recall five years ago when I came on board whether I did
that. I expect that I did, and subsequently they’ve been
through a review process more than once, I think.
And why was it that they were subject to a review
Why were they subject to a review process?---Well, I think
there’s a requirement that they are reviewed on a regular
Are you talking about section 5.46? Turn over the page and
have a look at that. Do you see a register of and records
relevant to delegations to CEO and employees?---Yes.
Is that what you're referring to there?
the CEO's - - -?---Yes.
Subsection (1),
- - - need to register - - -?---The register.
- - - delegations made - - -?---That's right.
- - - in this div to the CEO and to employees?---That is
So you're saying that there is a register of
delegations - - -?---Yep.
- - - in the City?---Yep.
But that register of delegations won't be as precise as to
say Mr Dacombe, the CEO, has delegated his responsibilities
under 541A to named executives?---Well, I don't have them
in front of me so I cannot answer for sure.
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Well, if you were named then you would have caused that to
have taken place?---I'm not sure - - Do you agree?---I'm not sure that I understand the
Well, you see, I'm just trying to work out - for example,
did you ever say to Mr Sharpe, at least to start with,
working there - you said to him, look, if there's any
question that comes up at Council meetings regarding
compliance with the Local Government Act or any other
written law, I want you to take responsibility for
answering that question. Did you ever do that with
him?---What I did with him was say, Mr Sharpe, I would like
you to handle the standing orders issue.
Yes?---So he dealt with that one specifically.
Yes?---In terms of providing advice under the Local
Government Act or any other Act, I - that will be either
covered in that delegations manual that I've referred to or
their contracts.
I see. The answer might - I want an answer to my
Do you recall speaking to Mr Sharpe about this specific
issue at Council meetings, I'm going to delegate
responsibility to you to answer any questions regarding the
procedures required under the Local Government Act?---No.
No. And am I saying - am I right in saying that the answer
would be no to whether you did that with any of the other
executives?---I'm only pausing in terms of recollection.
Not in those terms, no, would be my recollection.
And what about when the new executives who arrived Dr Mouritz, Mr Jefferies and Ms Armstrong, did you speak to
them specifically about this requirement that you'll be
delegating the responsibilities that you had regarding
advising Council of the provisions of the Local Government
Act?---When - when they came on board there was - I sort of
- no, well the short answer is probably not in those
terms. No.
No. Because would I be right in saying that those three
would have had very little experience, if anything at all,
of the provisions of the Local Government Act because they
came from outside the jurisdiction?---They - I would not
expect them to be, you know, word perfect in that area.
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Mr Dacombe, I know you've been cross-examined at length
about this matter but isn't it the case that the delegation
to, say, Mr Sharpe, for example, of your duties under
section 541A, just simply evolved without you considering
whether compliance had been made with the Local Government
Act?---The issue of standing orders, which I covered - - I'm talking about - - -?--- - - - and secondly, the issue
of the Local Government Act - he, simply in his role as
finance, head of finance, he - he provided advice under the
Local Government Act. When his position changed to include
the corporate services role, the - the formal function of
providing support for Council is included in that job
description, is my recollection.
Am I right, though, in saying that an active prescription
just simply evolved?---Well, it evolved to the extent that
I've just described.
And are you saying that it evolved with you knowing the
provisions of section 5.44 and 5.46?---Well, the short
answer to that is yes.
Okay?---Again, that yes is in the context of answers that
I've already given you.
And that applies to any requirements under the Local
Government Act and its regulations?---Well, yes.
Section 5.41(b) - I don't intend to go through every single
subsection of 5.41, but this one, the CEO's functions are
to ensue that advice and information is available to
Councillors so that informed decisions can be made. Now, I
was listening to your answers to questions from Ms Saraceni
and I know that you're response to her question regarding
that is that you believe that you did comply with the
provisions of that subsection?---That's right.
Okay. But would you agree with me that it's readily
apparent from evidence before this Inquiry, and I've heard
you say that you have been reading the transcripts and also
it's evident from listening to audiotapes from Council
meetings which, of course, you were present at, that a
common complaint from Councillors was that they weren't
being provided with enough information so that informed
decisions could be made by the Council. Do you agree with
that?---I don't agree with the - I agree that that
complaint was made - - -
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Yes?--- - - - from time to time.
Yes. And - well, not just from time to time. I'm going to
suggest to you that it was a complaint that you frequently
heard at Council meetings, for example?---I heard that
But I gather from what you're saying is that there wasn't a
justification for those complaints?---On occasion there
was. On - - There were occasions?---On occasions.
So there were occasions when they should have been better
informed?---I would accept that.
And are you able to recall some examples of that?---Not not specifically. I think it was quite often a complaint
in the planning area, less so in the other areas, I
believe. From time to time it might have arisen related to
- related to the engineering area and often the issue was
not so much that the information wasn't there or, well, not
sufficient information to make a decision. Often the issue
was the Council wanted more understanding of the issue; in
which case there was a process to deal with that.
Yes. And this would emanate would it not from the fact
that as far as the Council was concerned, that edification
wasn’t present in the report. It was before the
Council?---The - the answer to that is yes, but I would
also qualify that.
Are you of the view that Council should have been better
informed with respect to any of the matters that this
Inquiry is looking at?---Well, only in the context that you
can always do better and not take it on board and let - - All right. Let’s use an example, Willetton Child Care
Centre?---Well, I don’t see how they could have had much
more information than they actually got.
So you don’t agree with that?---No, I don’t agree with
that. I - I think the issues around that were - were not
issues of lack of availability of information. And that
may have been the issue right at the beginning, but the
process was such that every request that was asked for by
the Council was actually provided as I understand it.
And you would - then from your answer and from questions
that have already been asked of you this morning, that that
letter in your name for 21 December - I think it was 2010,
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you were of the view that by that stage, all Council had
all the information to make a decision about this
lease?---Without actually going back and looking at the the - at the chronology, I would have thought by about that
stage, they did.
Even though the asset review hadn’t been completed by
then?---Yes, they had - I think - believe they had
sufficient information to make the decision in the
context - sufficient information if there were of a mind
to, to make a positive decision in the context of the asset
review program. And I explained that earlier in the - with
the example of stopping the bus to count the kids.
All right. So did you believe that they had sufficient
information notwithstanding the fact that the asset review
hadn’t been completed to extend the lease or to make a new
lease with the sort of time frames that the Child Centre
was seeking, namely 10 years with an option for a further
10?---They could have shortened that. They had sufficient
information to do that.
So the question is they should have been able to grant the
lease as requested by the child-care centre?---They could
have chosen to do that, yes.
But really in practice, would that have been a sensible
decision?---Well, there were - there were quite clear
political statements made about there being no intention to
throw out the child-care centre, so I give you a scenario.
It’s quite possible - - I’m - I’m just simply asking
would be a sensible decision
information they had to have
new lease for that length of
peppercorn rate?---I think that decision.
whether you would think that
by Council with the
extended the lease and made a
time at - and also at the
I think they could have made
I know they could have, they could have made the decision
to make the lease for 100 years, but I’m asking you whether
it would be a - I used the word sensible, but maybe I
should use the word wise decision?---Look, I don’t want to
frustrate you, but I can’t answer that question without
some explanation to it.
So you’re saying then they could have made a wise and
informed decision at that time, December of 2010, to extend
the lease and the conditions that the child-care centre was
seeking. But I gather from what you’re saying, your answer
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would be yes?---Yes, I believe they could have without
compromising the asset - the overall asset review.
What about compromising the situation that other child-care
centres were in, in the area. Wasn’t it a case where the
rent arrangements - lease arrangements with respect to
those premises should be taken into account? The answer
must be yes?---Pardon?
The answer to that must be yes?---That it would compromise
it in the context of others?
Sorry? Yes, to have a look at it in consideration of what
other child-care centres were paying by way of rent and
what arrangements they had with the Council?---And that
information, if it hadn’t been provided could have been
provided at that time. I believe it was provided. They
could have made a decision taking into account those
Can I ask you a general question now, and that is what role
did you think you had as CEO when Council was debating
whether an officer’s recommendation should or should not be
accepted?---What role did I think I had?
Mm hmm?---Well, that role was made - made pretty clear
right from the beginning that the - by the time it got to
the Council chambers, the officers had had their say and
the opportunity to look at the case. It was a matter then
for the Council to - to debate and make a decision, so
clearly there was no role as part of the debate if you like
as the 11th Councillor or whatever, but there was certainly
a role to ensure that advice was provided if it was
And that might be what the role of others thought you
should play, but I asked you what did you think your role
should be?---In terms of the way in which I have operated
with elected members, I was comfortable with that role.
So you didn’t disagree?---I didn’t disagree. That’s
consistent with the approach that I talked about earlier.
So did you regard then your role as merely reactive rather
than proactive?---I certainly didn’t see I had a role to
steer the debate.
No, the question was, do you regard your role then as being
simply reactive? Do you only say something when you’re
called upon?---No.
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Right. So when you say steer the debate, did you feel that
your role was to step in and say something about the merits
or otherwise of the two opposing views?---No.
No. Did you ever speak up in favour of a recommendation
that looked like it might be rejected?---If - if there
was - and I can’t actually as I sit here thinking, I can’t
think of an example, but if it looked like a resolution was
going to go away of actually compromising - you know, of
having a knock-on effect, then I would have considered it
appropriate to intervene in that, but you know, that there
was very little that took place at the Council table that
had anything of any sort of strategic significance, at
least in the first period.
Well, I’ll use an example that’s come up in this Inquiry.
The Willetton Child Care matter. Did you ever speak up at
a Council meeting and express your views in relation to
that, and I’m talking about a Council meeting?---No.
Never?---No, I did not - I did not express a view, a
personal view as part of the debate, no.
You see at the - the Payton Inquiry, an observation had
been made by a senior manager at the City that you very
rarely defended at Council meetings, reports that had been
written by administration staff. So I gather from what
you’re saying - and my previous questions - you would agree
with that?---Sorry, I’m just contemplating the question,
because again, the - the language is - if the - if the - if
the Council got to the point of a - a member putting up an
alternate - or recommendation to - to reject the officer’s
recommendation and to move something else, I would not
generally enter the debate, no. If that’s what you mean by
That would be one way of looking at it, yes. Or for
example, advising Council of what you regarded as the
merits to the recommendation - of the recommendation. You
wouldn’t do that as a matter of course?---No, I would not
do that unless invited.
You see, the senior manager making that observation at the
Payton Inquiry was Mr Paul Merlo - just for the record sir,
that’s at page - well, it’s document 3215 at page 14,
Mr Merlo’s transcript. And he also suggested a rather
simple solution to - and the impasse that would happen when
Council didn’t accept an officer’s recommendation, and I
will take you to this. It’s at page 24 of his evidence.
Again, that’s document 3215. And yeah, we’ve got most of
that passage there that I wanted to speak to you about with
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the question did it - did it happen in Dr Lekias’s time?
And particularly the sixth line down starting off with:
- seemed to be a reluctance to just simply go along
with what was being recommended.
And that’s a rather longwinded answer. And what he is
essentially saying, is that - rather than read it all
through already and out aloud - is that - and it’s - it’s
really encapsulated in the last few lines there, that he
was talking about the relationship breaking down between
Council and the administration staff with recommendations.
And he’s saying that when that happened you don’t just put
up reports cold, as he says, without any discussion.
Perhaps you know, speaking to Council in some way or
another, whether it was a form or a memorandum or whatever,
there’s a greater risk that it won’t go through. So what
he’s saying is that instead of just putting up a report up
cold, that there be some discussions beforehand?---But it
would depend - - You see some merit in that?---It would - that would depend
on the issue and that - in terms of for example, in terms
of anything that we put under the umbrella of Refocus,
that’s what the project advisory groups were set up to do
as was the Refocus Forum. Pretty well anything else that
didn’t come under that heading was of a - was of a
relatively low level matter. Quite often, recommendations
that - well, those recommendations that were overturned
would be around issues of discretion related to buildings
and patios and garages and all of that sort of stuff.
But there were some other major matters as well. I mean and these are the ones that we’ve looked at in this
Inquiry?---I think that - that - - Yeah, - - -?--- - - - you - you - - - - - that’s right there, isn’t it?
aren’t - - -?---Sorry?
I’m right there,
- - - I? That there were some projects that did reach an
impasse and the - the Nicholson/Bannister Roads project for
example?---And there was a lot of discussion on that.
Yes? And you see - I just want to take you to an answer
that you gave regarding the Nicholson/Bannister Road
project and that’s at page 63 of your transcript. I think
you were taken to this page earlier today in your
evidence. And at the top of the page there you were asked
a question by counsel assisting:
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So there could be situations where significant work
had been done and requests were (indistinct) and
applications made for funding, and indeed the
approval of funding before Council even knows what’s
going on.
You remember that?---Yep.
And then you - the answer that you gave to that question I’m concentrating on the last sentence there, which is four
lines from the bottom:
That - that was one - that was one that certainly got
my attention, because, you know, my experience would
be that you report that sort of thing to the Council
before you actually make the submission.
And then you were asked:
Otherwise you run the risk of it being an utter waste
of time and resources to go and do all that work,
only for Council to say ‘Well, it’s not a priority
for us right now.’
Do you see that?---Yes.
The - and so you actually said there, in your experience,
you would report that sort of thing to Council before you
actually make the submission?---Absolutely.
So you’re talking about your experience working in other
See - so did you apply your experience then to any of the
situations that this Inquiry’s looking at?---What I’ve
explained to you, is how I was comprehensively the
experience by - by reviewing and developing the systems in
the organisation, including the budgeting system. But did
I pick out this one particular one and deal with it on its
own, no.
Well, had you picked out any of these ones that the Inquiry
is looking at and apply that process?---In terms of
No, just in terms of before putting up a submission or a
recommendation, actually taking Council through the
process? I know you mentioned that this was something that
Refocus was looking at?---Well, I think there were some
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good examples of how we did that, and one good example was
the - in fact I’ll give you two examples. One was the
Canning - whatever they’ve called it - the - the $37m
aquatic system - - The - the leisure centre?---Leisure centre.
Yes?---And there was a - a lengthy and involved process
that Councillors were involved, and that as you’ve heard me
refer to earlier today, was the model of the project
advisory groups. So that was one of them.
Yes?---The other one that I would refer to was the Canning
- Cannington City Centre.
Yes?---A huge planning exercise. Again, that was the
approach that was - that was taken. It was set up - you’re
shaking your head.
No - no - no - no, I’m - I’m not arguing with you there,
but - - -?---Mm.
- - - I’m asking you about whether with respect to any of
the matters that this Inquiry is investigating, whether
that process was done?---The - - And I’m suggesting the answer is - the short answer is,
no?---Well, I don’t think that’s entirely correct, because
the - the Willetton Child Care Centre, there was
considerable face to face contact between staff and
Councillors working through that issue; that’s one example.
No - no, Mr Dacombe that’s not a very good example I
suggest to you, because it only came before Council three
years after the lease expired. That example would have to
be, in this context - the facts of that example would if
Council was alerted to the fact that the lease was going to
expire and therefore the process would be put in place to
arrange how a new lease (indistinct)?---So related to that
and possibly as a result of that, the - well, not as a
result of that, but the work that was done on pulling
together all of that information and detail for the Council
as part of the Refocus process was - was well underway.
Now, through - through no fault of your own that was three
or four years too late, wasn’t it?---For the - for the the child-care centre?
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Okay?---The - - Well, did you - did you want to refer to any of the
specific issues this Inquiry’s addressing where that
process was applied?---Well, I think the - I think the
other example I was thinking of just as you started to
speak then was the one on the border of Gosnells. That had
been going on for - for quite a while. And - and that was
probably a factor. And that was - was probably the length
of time that had taken, the people that had been involved
in it, et cetera. But again once that became an issue what
- what I did was put the staff alongside the elected
members, the Mayor in particular, to try and work that one
See, just harping back to what Mr Merlo said, it seemed to
be supported by Councillor Elliott’s evidence which
Mr McGowan referred to you yesterday, about you tending to
acquiesce to Council’s views on recommendations. Do you
remember Mr McGowan taking you to that passage of
Councillor Elliott’s evidence?---I remember that.
Now, it - it’s not necessarily a criticism at all,
Mr Dacombe, but do you agree that there is some evidence
before this Inquiry to suggest that you preferred to avoid
disagreeing with the Council?---No, the evidence that’s
before the Inquiry is that I prefer to work with the
elected members to come up with a result that they - they
can all accept and support.
Yes. Isn’t that an accurate way of describing it? You
prefer to avoid disagreeing with them?---I - I actually
prefer to avoid disagreeing with them in public. But again
as the information before the Inquiry will show, I’m - I am
quite capable of arguing my corner and what I consider to
be the appropriate place. But disagreeing with the Mayor
in public, for example, is just simply not an option unless
it comes down to a, you know, a matter of life and death.
What about disagreeing with a Councillor?---Well, I think I
would - no, I’d - I’d make a clear distinction about that.
I - I would - I would not argue with a Councillor over a
Councillor’s legitimate political position.
Well, I’m not so much talking about political position, I’m
talking about matters they might raise in debate over an
officer’s recommendation or giving you notice of a notice
of motion they intend to raise at a Council
meeting?---There are several examples I think in the record
of the Inquiry where I have actually challenged a notice of
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Is that (indistinct) - - -?---And I wouldn’t wait for that
to end up on an agenda.
No. And are those examples that you spoke about, is where
you actually had the support of the Mayor in regard to
those?---Well, look, I would always go to the Mayor in the
first instance on an issue like that.
And I’d suggest to you there were far more occasions than
not when he would agree with you?---(No audible answer)
Yes?---Well, yes.
And he’d have the notice of motions withdrawn?---Yes.
Now, something else that Mr McGowan asked you about was the
number of staff leaving the Council. He gave you a
260 from memory.
three years.
I could be wrong there?---Yeah, over
Yes. Did you notice, though - and you - you also said that
you would have been getting updates from human resources
regarding - - -?---Yeah.
- - - staff resignations?---Yeah.
Did you notice an increase in resignations after you
appointed the new executives in late 2010?---No, not that
would - not that - no.
No?---Not that would concern me.
And - - -
None that would concern you?---Yeah.
Well, wouldn’t it concern you if there was such an increase
in resignations?---Well, not necessarily so.
You might think that would be a - a good thing because
staff were leaving because might not have necessarily
agreed with the new regime you had in place?---Well, I
think that in any organisation a process of renewal is
good. And that it’s also good for the organisation of
those who check out the new regime if you like and decide
that they don’t like the direction. It’s perfectly
legitimate and appropriate for them to move on.
So you think in that circumstances that’s a good thing for
the City?---It would depend on - on the level of that
20/11/2013 4:20
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happening. And the numbers that were talked about the
other day were not extreme in that sense at all.
Mr Dacombe, wasn’t it the case that the City was losing
people with considerable years of experience at the Council
- or at the City, rather?---There were people that left
that - yeah, certainly, there were people that left that
had considerable - - So it might not necessarily all be good news for the City
to (indistinct)?---Well, you know, obviously with someone
who has given good service to an organisation and they move
on, they have been a valuable employer then - employee then
you’re sorry that they’ve gone. But - but if they’ve
decided and it’s clear to you that they’re not going to be
a fit in the organisation then overall it’s better for all
party. So it’s not a simple yes/no.
Sir, I should say I’m not going to finish - - KENDALL, DR:
area if I can.
That’s fine.
- - - today so I’ll just go to one more
Yes, please do.
I just want to refer to some transcript of
your evidence last month, Mr Dacombe. And one - the first
passage is - it’s document 33 - 3,335 at page 92. This was
questions that you gave in answer to - sorry, answers you
gave to questions from Mr Renton. That’s the page I
think. Just go a bit further down. Question 1:
Well, I’ve indicated, though, some of.
That’s what I want to concentrate on.
there. You’ve said there:
And your answer
But can I also say I didn’t have, you know, technical
knowledge in the engineering area or technical
knowledge in the town planning area either so, you
know, do you? In the case of leading an organisation
like this you put the right people in the right
place - that’s a phrase you’ve used today as well:
- you ensure that they appropriately trained and
developed and, you know, the odd one gets through for
sure. But for the most - most part the executive
20/11/2013 4:20
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team of that Council that I put in place in early
2011 were top performers.
Now, you referred there to the “odd one gets through”. Was
that from the executive team you’d put in place or was that
somebody else?---Just let me absorb that paragraph just for
a minute.
Like me to repeat the question?---No, no, I - I understand
the question.
Was the odd one from the executive team or from somewhere
else?---The odd one - well, basically I was talking more
generally I think. But obviously if - if an issue gets
through ultimately we’ve all missed it depending on, you
know, where - where it gets to.
Maybe that wasn’t a very
So you're not - you're referring to an issue rather
than - - -?---I'm - I'm referring to your - a mistake that
we might make from time to time.
Well, perhaps the only way of reading that is that you're
referring to people:
In the case of leading an organisation like this, you
put the right people in the right place. You ensure
that they are appropriately trained and developed,
and the odd one gets through for sure, but for the
most part the executive team of that Council that
I've put in place in early 2011 were top performers.
?---No, I mean the odd issue, the odd mistake is made. I'm
not referring - it might not be well phrased, but I'm not
referring to people.
But that whole answer that you've given is only a reference
to people. You can go above the answer that you start to
give there. It's - you're only talking about people. You
look up the - the answer that you started to give?---Look,
I - - I had a - I had a clear working knowledge of the
Local Government Act. You know, I didn't profess to
have an encyclopaedic knowledge of - and certainly
there were issues raised that could have been
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answered immediately and if couldn't be answered
immediately, they were checked.
And then you go on to say:
But can I also say - and then you start talking about people, rather than
issues?---When I'm talking about the odd one gets through,
I'm talking about issues.
All right?---That's a reference to you put the best people
that you possibly can in place.
Right?---You can't have a cast-iron guarantee that mistakes
aren't going to be made.
Well, do you agree that when you read that it's difficult
to elicit?---Well, I'm - - That explanation of your - - -?---Thank you for the
opportunity to clarify it, because that's exactly what I
I'm glad I could help out there. So the - we do know from
the - your answers you've already given that top performers
from the executive team - that's Mike - Dr Mouritz?---Yes.
Fiona Armstrong?---Yes.
Andrew Sharpe?---Yes.
Kevin Jefferies?---That's right.
What about
those that
was a very
Charles Sullivan, would you regard him as one of
- who were top performers?---Charles I believe
competent engineer. Charles caused me some
issues with his interpersonal skills.
So he's not one of those top performers?---Well, I
couldn't - - And I know you need to be careful that this is a public
But then again, Mr Dacombe, you are under oath?---Yes.
Well - - -
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And that takes precedence over offending anybody?---Okay.
Well, Charles Sullivan actually gave us all the issues
related around - I mean, basically he had a head-on clash
with the Deputy Mayor and that made life quite difficult
for him and for me, I think. I can go on and elaborate on
that a little bit more if you want me to.
But the - the real answer is, and I can suggest it to you
if it saves you from any embarrassment, he wasn't one of
those top performers. Let me put it this way. You
wouldn't put him in the same category as
Dr Mouritz - - -?---No.
- - - Ms Armstrong, Mr Sharpe and Mr Jefferies?---No.
So you mentioned there about the interpersonal factors in
your assessment of Mr Sullivan. Were you aware if he was
making payments in advance to make it look like the
Engineering Department was achieving greater
productivity?---No, I certainly wouldn't - I'm certainly
not aware of that - - You're certainly not aware of that?---No. That allegation
has never been made to me, I don't believe.
Have you subsequently become aware of that?---That's never
been put to me.
All right?---In my recollection I've not heard that.
Would you be surprised if that was true?---I would be
It's hardly appropriate conduct, is it?---No.
You have no idea who might have instructed him to do
that?---Well, no one could have instructed him to do that.
Because?---Well, I didn't.
You didn't. And why wouldn't have anyone?---Well, he
didn't report to anyone else.
And sir, just to ensure that's not a groundless question I
asked, it's actually the evidence of Mr Merlo and his
interview at the Peyton Inquiry. For the record it's
page 21, sir, of document 3215.
You engaged Mr Sullivan, didn't you?---Did I what, sorry?
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You employed him, didn't you?---Yes, I did.
Did you believe Kevin Jefferies was suitably qualified to
be the executive of Property Assets and Economic
You do?---Yeah.
So he was the head - to - to use a more simple explanation
for it, he was the head of the Planning
Department?---That's right.
Town Planning?---Yes, which he had done successfully
Where?---In the Kapiti Coast District Council in New
Is that when you were - - -?---That's right.
- - - Chief Executive Officer?---That's right.
But he had no town planning qualifications, did he?---No.
He had no technical knowledge in town planning?---No.
No?---That's not the role of the executive, of course.
Well, I don't know what existed in New Zealand. But you
were aware, were you not, that the executive of - and I'll
just call it the Planning Department - would ordinarily
appear on behalf of the City at any matters before the
State Administrative Tribunal?---The previous - the
previous individual did that.
Yes. And you're aware, aren't you, that Mr Jefferies
wasn't able to appear on behalf of the City in those
matters because he didn't have the necessary
qualifications?---No, but he had technical staff that were
able to undertake that function under his direction.
Well, you don't see that as somewhat of a problem?---No.
You see, there were three direct reports to Mr Jefferies.
One - I think three - actually, there's another question
that was asked earlier. It's coming back to me, actually.
There was Town Planning, Health and Building and there was
a compliance area reporting to him. His role was to manage
that area.
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Yes?---And develop it and - and ensure that it was
providing high-quality customer service and sound technical
advice. The technical advisors were the manager of Town
Planning, whatever the title was we gave them, those three
at the next level. That's where I expected that technical
level of expertise.
Right. Well, he was also appointed, I'm talking about
Mr Jefferies, as acting Executive of the Engineering and
Executive Services?---That was - yes. The answer to that
is yes.
Yes. And at the same time he was head of the - I gather,
just using the term Planning Department?---That's right.
He didn't have an engineering degree, did he?---No.
And he lacked any technical knowledge in this area?---Well,
he wasn't an engineer.
But he lacked any technical knowledge in this area?---Well,
I think the thing is in the area of the planning - - Okay. Can you just - can you just answer that question?
I'm talking - I'm moving on to engineering now. He didn't
have any technical knowledge in that part of it where he
was acting, did he?---Well, that's - that's - that is what
I was going to answer, because leading that planning area
you have to have an understanding of engineering issues,
how to apply - obtain and apply the appropriate advice. So
I'm qualifying my answer to you by saying he would have an
understanding of how to manage all that, if not the actual
technical expertise that a ticket would confer.
So you - you are answering the question. He lacked any
technical expertise or knowledge in that area?---I'm not
saying he lacked knowledge. He did not have a technical
qualification in that area.
He had no - you agree with me he had no previous experience
running the Council's Engineering Department?---No, I don't
think so.
So are you saying that he was also a suitably qualified
person to be in this acting position?---In terms of what I
wanted him to do, for the period that I wanted him to do
it, yes.
Well, how long did he end up being the acting Executive
for?---Well, he ended up being there for quite a lot longer
than was my intention.
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How long?---I don’t know.
He was still there when I left.
Yes. Well, Charles Sullivan left in July of 2011?---That’s
You left in, we’re talking about April 2012 or end of
January 2012?---Well, I was physically removed at the end
of January.
And he was still in - Acting Executive of the
Engineering - - -?---That’s right.
- - - Department then?---That’s right.
So he’d been there for six months?---That’s right.
could qualify as to why that is if you want me to.
And I
Well, I’m anticipating your answer will be it’s because of
the difficulties that were experienced in selecting someone
to take over that position on a permanent basis. Am I
right there?---Um.
If I’m not then we’re going to move on.
move on?---Pardon?
If I’m right we’ll
At - at - if - am I right or am I wrong?---Yeah, I’m not
going to complicate the answer. I could qualify that as
well but - - Okay?--- - - - the answer is he was there a lot longer than
I intended and it was beyond my control at that point.
Do you agree with me that the Planning Department and the
Engineering Department were the two largest departments or
sections within the City?---That’s right.
And the two departments which had the most problems when
you took over?---That’s right.
And you’ve already - recall or had a vague recollection of
Charles Johnson referring to the Planning Department as a
basket case - - -?---That’s right.
- - - in conducting his review. So you had one being the
executive of both departments for a period of seven
And two departments that still at that time had problems
with their operations?---Through the period that Kevin
Jefferies was - no, the short answer to that is, “Yes”, and
I can qualify that as well.
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Right?---He left both departments far better off than when
he found them.
But less than ideal?---Well - - Yes?---No, they were - well - - You knew - - -?---No, I will answer that by saying there
was a - no, all right. Okay.
Do you understand given those circumstances why some
elected members would be concerned about that
arrangement?---I can - I can understand that they raised
concerns, yes.
And - but you can understand why they would be raising
concerns given that fact that - - -?---Well, I - I - - Is it either “Yes”, or “No”, or you need to - - -?---Okay.
Well, I - I will - - If - - -?---I will say, “Yes”, but I can qualify that if
you want me to.
All right. I don’t really require a qualification because
I’m just asking you whether you understood why it would be
that some members, elected members would have concerns
about that and you’ve answered yes. See, I know what you
say about Mr Jefferies’ experience with engineering matters
having worked in town planning before but he wouldn’t be
able to answer any questions requiring technical expertise
at Council meetings regarding engineering issues. Do you
agree with that?---He wouldn’t be able to answer any
questions requiring - - Technical expertise?--- - - - what - there’s a difference
between a legal or technical understanding and a, you know,
registered engineer, for example. So he could not provide
that level of technical advice, no, and he would have to
find a way to be able to present that.
And once more, I’m not asking whether they were necessarily
right in forming this view or not, I’m just asking you
whether you can understand given these circumstances why
the Council might want elected members observing the
selection process for the executive engineering
position?---I demonstrated I understood that by my actions.
So the answer to that is, “Yes”?---Yeah.
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And when - I’ll just finish off with this; when Charles
Sullivan suddenly left, it - it caused a major headache for
you to find someone who could fill in?---Yeah. It did.
That - and I’m just filling in that role of Acting
And I’m only saying you didn’t believe anyone was
appropriate to fill that position within the Engineering
Department?---That’s right.
Right, yes. And did it get to a point where you actually
considered - - -?---Sorry, can I just say there was no one
- there was no one appropriate or able to be released from
other duties.
I understand. And did it get to a point where you actually
considered appointing a manager in Community Services to be
the Acting Executive?---I did consider that.
And that was Tania Trengove?---I did consider that.
So a lady who’d had all her experience, as far as you
understood, in Community Services?---That’s right.
To then - - -?---Who was looking for a management challenge
and I did contemplate a short-term acting role.
But do you agree with me that unlike what you’ve said about
the Planning Department and the Engineering Department
there really is no overlap between Community Services and
Engineering?---And that would be one of the factors I took
into account in finally not going down that path.
Well, isn’t the factor of not going down that path was
because she said, “No.” It was actually offered to her,
wasn’t it?---I can’t recall. I don’t think it was offered
to her. I think - I think I stopped short of - she was it was certainly discussed with her whether she was
interested in it.
Yes?---I don’t believe I got to offer it.
Is it all right with you, Mr Dacombe, if I can just
complete this area, and whether with you, sir?
Yes, that’s fine.
Is that all right with you? I know it’s
been a long day. On the subject matter of executives the
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person that - the executive responsible for preparing the
City’s budget would be Andrew Sharpe?---Yes.
Is that right?---Yes.
Anyone else?---In - - Either executive or - - -?---The - for preparing it?
of the executives were involved.
Okay. Did Fiona Armstrong have any involvement therefore
in preparing the budget?---She was involved as an
Yes. You said yesterday she had no accountancy
qualifications?---No, that’s right.
Yes. Now, I know you disagreed with Mr McGowan’s
proposition yesterday that Ms Armstrong presented the
2011/12 budget to Council, yes, and you maintain that,
don’t you?---I do.
Yes. But do you know whether she gave the presentation for
that draft budget for 2011/12 at a budget workshop?---I can
describe her involvement if - - So the answer to that is you - do you know that
she - - -?---I did - - You do know she had - - -?---I did - no. You asked me sorry, just - it is - it is late so - - Yes?--- - - - and I’m not trying to be difficult. You
asked me whether I knew whether she gave the opening
presentation. Now, I - I would say I don’t believe she did
give the opening presentation but the budget process had a
front end to it which was a process through the month of
June 2011, I think, where we worked with elected members on
their strategic goals.
Okay?---And so she - she definitely was involved in
facilitating that.
Let’s go back a step?---And I can describe that further if
you want me to.
There were budget workshops?---Yes.
You agree with that?
And this is prior to the budget being
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Merrill Corporation Australia
Okay. And so these budget workshops involved
Councillors?---And executive.
And - yes, yes. You see, you said you don’t know if
Ms Armstrong gave a presentation of the draft budget at
such a workshop?---She didn’t give the presentation of the
draft budget.
Were you present?---I believe I was.
Well - well - - -?---I believe - - -
- - - I’m - I’m saying to you that she actually gave a
presentation of the draft budget instead of the executive
officer that you would expect to be doing that who was also
there, and that is Mr Sharpe. Now, can you recall a
workshop that took place in that situation? She gave the
presentation. Mr Sharpe said nothing?---So she presented
numbers. Is that what you’re saying?
She presented the draft 2011/’12 budget?---No.
She got up in front of them, the Councillors, and gave the
presentation, and Mr Sharpe did nothing?---That - I don’t
recall that at all.
Don’t recall that?---But - but having - I mean, I can - I
can - I can describe - - Now - - -?---- - - more fully what her role was through
that process if you wanted, but I am saying - - I’m just talking about - - -?---- - - no, I don’t recall
her presenting the budget.
That would be unusual, wouldn’t it?---Yes.
And it would be cause of some concern to Councillors if
they - if that happened. You understand why there might be
some - - -?---Well - - - - - (indistinct) concerned about that?---- - - well, I
would expect if they - if that happened and if they had a
concern they would have come straight to me.
I under - no. Asking can you understand why they would
have a concern. The answer to that is yes?---If she
presented the budget, yes.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
A criticism, or an observation at least, that Councillor
Barry had of how the City operated in 2011 was that it was
often difficult to work out who amongst the executives was
doing what, okay? I’m just putting that proposition to
you. You may have read that in his evidence that he’s
given at this Inquiry?---Yes, I’ve heard evidence of that.
You see, Dr Mouritz, for example, he was the executive city
But wasn’t he also involved in the Brownlie Towers
And wasn’t that part of the planning department’s
responsibilities?---Not after I changed it, no.
No. But it was initially the planning department’s
responsibility?---The - the previous planning - the whatever it was called, strategic and regulatory services,
had that under its wing, yes.
And did he not also assist Mr Jefferies when Mr Jefferies
was the acting executive of the engineering
department?---I’m - in what - I don’t - - Well, you see, you don’t - you don’t - you weren’t aware of
that?---No, I think - I - I’ll let you answer - ask the
question. I’m not aware of Dr Mouritz getting involved in
the engineering department.
Were you aware of any executives assisting Mr Jefferies?
Because - bearing in mind he’s doing two jobs at
once?---Dr Mouritz and Kevin Jefferies worked closely
together on at least two key projects, and they were the
Cannington City Centre and the Brownlie - the Brownlie
Precinct, and - and possibly they were collaborating over
waste issues as well.
I was going to ask you about that, yes?---Yeah.
Can you recall whether this overlapping was ever brought to
the attention of the elected members?---Yeah, it was.
Sure?---Well, it was - it was certainly discussed with them
when I was setting up the structure. Certainly written
into - it’s written into the document. The green document
that has been raised during the day I believe talks about
the way - the way of operating.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
Yes, but not precisely. Like, for example, to use the
waste management service as - example, that’s the province
of the engineering department?---Operationally it is.
Yes. So suggesting to you Council weren’t advised
specifically that Dr Mouritz - there’d be occasions when
Dr Mouritz will be, for example, answering any questions
they might have regarding waste management
services?---Well, I - I would say they were through the
process of setting up the organisation.
From reading the material they would have worked
that - - -?---No, no, they were - there were regular
sessions that I had with Council through that Refocus
And finally, because I know we’ve hashed this over a lot,
this is document 1,947, which was the - the advice from
McLeods that was given to Mr Gomes in January of 2011, but
we saw that it was CCed to Mr Kevin
Jefferies - - -?---Yeah.
- - - but then we also saw in some - an email trail that
was shown just after lunch today that he was contacting you
regarding that matter just the day after the date of that
letter. Do - do you recall that email? I don’t know
whether - be necessary - - -?---Yeah, I recall the
email - - Yes?---- - - that was shown to me earlier.
But Mr Jefferies at that point in time’s got nothing to do
with engineering, has he? The engineering
department?---No, I don’t think so. I mean, he - he was
there and took the call in the absence of Charles Sullivan
and myself, I believe.
And that’s how he became involved?---I think so, yes.
But I would suggest to you, looking at - on the face of it
of that letter, that he had been involved prior to that,
because he was actually CCed in on the email - - -?---I
think - - - - - sent to Mr Gomes?---- - - actually think if you go
back to the documents I think you’ll find that - that - I
think you will find that his involvement in that letter was
to do with taking the call from Jeff Owen.
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Merrill Corporation Australia
All right. Well, the dates will speak for themselves, and
I won’t bother doing that now at 10 to 5, sir, and that
should complete my examination for today.
All right.
Thank you, Mr Urquhart.
Mr Renton, I’m just looking at the schedule and the
witnesses that still are to come. I wonder in the
circumstances if it might be appropriate to start tomorrow
morning at 9.30?
Thank you, sir. Can I just note as well that
we’ll identify those emails that were put up during the
course of Ms Saraceni’s examination and have them
identified with Inquiry numbers so they can be accessed by
other counsel, should there be a need.
All right.
And I just note as well, Mr McGowan, thank you for bringing
that error to our attention this morning. The transcript
has now been fixed and it now says, “Rogue”, not, “Rouge”.
Appreciate that, thank you.
All right.
Thank you.
We’ll adjourn until 9.30 tomorrow morning.
Thank you, sir.
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Merrill Corporation Australia