MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire CEO Carl Cowie has quit the top job.
Lured from private industry in November 2014 the almost-$400,000 man issued an email to the shire’s 900-odd staff on Thursday 30 August telling them of his decision.
Although required to give three months’ notice it is expected he and the council will negotiate a payout enabling him to leave early to take up a position as CEO of the Shire of Nillumbik.
The mayor Cr Bryan Payne said “on behalf of the council and the community, I thank Carl for his major contribution [to] the Mornington Peninsula Shire Council over the past four years”.
“The restructuring of council operations, and the implementation of new technology, will ultimately translate into major savings and enable the council to operate in a more efficient manner for ratepayers,” he said.
“Carl, through his personal and caring involvement with staff and many organisations throughout the shire, has helped build a strong sense of community within and outside the organisation.
“The council has appreciated Carl’s professional contribution to the development of the Mornington Peninsula Shire and wishes him every success in the future.”
The mayor said the Scottish-born Mr Cowie had achieved “specifics” set by council which had led to “savings of more than $7 million, much of which would be ongoing”.
A qualified accountant with an MBA, and member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, Mr Cowie’s resignation came soon after the shire advertised his position under a mutual arrangement giving him six months’ notice of their intention to not automatically reappoint him. (“Market test for CEO’s job” The News 18/6/18).
At the time, Cr Payne issued a statement saying the decision “is not a reflection on the performance of the CEO, but rather council exercising due diligence to ensure that the most appropriate person is in place to lead the organisation into the future”.
At the time Mr Cowie told The News he had “been strongly encouraged to re-apply and I have advised that I will be doing that”.
A consultant was charged with selecting a recruitment firm to identify suitable candidates.
Mr Cowie also received endorsement from the Mornington Peninsula Ratepayers’ Association, which attributed his “private industry background and cost driven approach” to saving millions of dollars for the shire.
Association secretary Dr Alan Nelsen said Mr Cowie’s leadership had resulted in “significant improvement in the shire’s transparency and openness”.
He said Mr Cowie had “strongly supported the council and community” by opposing three-storey residential developments on the peninsula; helping to save Tootgarook Swamp by introducing a management plan and purchasing a sensitive area of land within the wetlands; finalising the Rosebud aquatic centre in a sensible location, and finalising the green wedge plan”.
But there were contentious issues, including negotiating an enterprise agreement that saw a dramatic cut in sick leave for staff “which didn’t make him very popular with staff,” according to the mayor, and approving a $3 million tender for legal firms that could be hired by the shire despite being asked to bring the matter to council for approval under delegation (“Probe into $3m legal tender” The News 5/6/18).
A standout issue was Mr Cowie’s reluctance to list on the shire’s gifts register a Mediterranean cruise he and his wife took as guests of prominent businessman and shire ratepayer Lindsay Fox (“CEO’s trip top draw on gifts list” The News 1/5/18).
Mr Cowie also failed to persuade councillors to accept a media policy that would have strictly curtailed their ability to make public statements and hold “off the record” conversations, and was criticised for his plan to open a shire office in the Melbourne CBD. The office has since been approved.