Council chief pay question

John Bennie. 38135


QUESTIONS about John Bennie’s pay and whether his role should be advertised have delayed plans to reappoint him as City of Greater Dandenong CEO.
Councillors closed their meeting to the media and public last Tuesday night and voted eight to three to start steps to keep Mr Bennie on when his contract expires in October.
But Cr Maria Sampey immediately lodged a rescission motion that will see the matter debated and voted on again in two weeks.
She said councillors needed more time and facts to make an informed decision.
“We’re getting different figures for what he’s been earning,” she later told the Journal.
“I think he’s the highest paid CEO in Victoria at present. I don’t think he’s too far behind the Prime Minister.”
The council’s draft 2015-’16 budget included $537,000 across two full-time positions in the chief executive’s department.
“Maybe it would be better if it was advertised,” Cr Sampey continued.
“How do we know who else is there if you don’t test the market?”
But Mayor Sean O’Reilly said advertising the position would demonstrate a lack of confidence in the CEO.
“Past history across the local government sector said the generally current CEO does not apply,” he said.
“We would be in severe danger of losing our current CEO.
“When things are being run properly, diligently, when the City of Greater Dandenong has one of the highest satisfaction rating surveys, why change something for no good reason?
“The overwhelming majority of councillors support the intention to reappoint based on John Bennie’s performance as CEO.”
Cr O’Reilly said the council had delivered great services and infrastructure since Mr Bennie had been on board, including the Dandenong Civic Centre and Noble Park Aquatic Centre.
“All of these things come about because we’ve had competent, diligent, forward reaching, forward thinking leadership, and John Bennie has contributed in a large part to that,” he said.
On 9 May Mr Bennie sought to be reappointed following an independent performance review.
But Cr Peter Brown said that aside from the mayor, councillors only found out two weeks ago that he wanted to stay on.
“We had little effective chance to discuss it,” he said.
“The correct process would be for councillors to meet with the CEO and hear his expectations because it is the council that employs the CEO.
Cr Matthew Kirwan agreed that the CEO position should be readvertised.
“It’s not a criticism of John Bennie,” he said.
“I just believe that when someone has been in a senior executive position as John Bennie has for almost 10 years, that it is the responsibility of councillors on behalf of ratepayers to test the market.”
What do you think? Email or visit