QUEANBEYAN City Council general manager Gary Chapman maintains he's got a right to publicly voice an opinion on council matters as the man responsible for Council's day-to-day operations.
"There is no reason why a general manager should not have an opinion," Mr Chapman said this week.
His comments follows a spat in the letters page of The Queanbeyan Age where Mr Chapman and former mayor Frank Pangallo have argued over the merit of some Council decisions made in the 2004-2008 term, when Mr Pangallo was still mayor.
Mr Chapman initially wrote to the paper in support of Council's Special Rate Variation [July 13], and said local infrastructure was in dire need of repair.
"Previous councils had not put aside sufficient funds for asset replacement, in fact the situation was more dire as no funds had been put aside at all," Mr Chapman wrote.
A letter from Mr Pangallo in the following edition [July 20], defended his council's management of council funds.
He also said it was inappropriate for a general manager to enter the "political debate" just prior to an election.
"A general manager is an employee who is employed by the elected council. It is completely inappropriate for any general manager to make political statements either in favour or critical of a council or councillors," Mr Pangallo said.
Neither the New South Wales Local Government Act or the standardised contract for general managers restrict Mr Chapman from making public comment on Council matters, and Mr Chapman is one of Queanbeyan City Council's nominated spokespeople for council business, alongside mayor Tim Overall.
However, the vice president of the NSW Local Government Association, Cr Allan Ezzy, said it was "unusual" for a general manager to publicly voice opposition to council decisions.
"I don't want to be seen to be buying into local issues down there, but my experience after many, many years in local government is that the mayor and the council set the policy of the day, and the general manager and his staff ensure that it's done," Cr Ezzy said.
"Now it's very unusual for the general manager to speak out in opposition to what the council has done, or decided to do. If, however, the council has taken a decision against the recommendation of the general manager and his staff in regard to legal matters or something like that, then I would think the general manager has every right to caution the council and the mayor.
"But that's not usually done publicly; that would be done discreetly I would think," he said.
Mr Chapman, however, said there were times when speaking up was the responsible thing to do.
"There is no reason why a general manager should not have an opinion. He might keep it to himself, he might share it. But I've seen it in other areas where council has made some woeful decisions and the general manager has had to come out and say 'listen, that's going to cost the community a lot of money.'
"[But] our role is not to embarrass the council either, or the mayor, and I wouldn't have written that letter if Mr Pangallo was still on Council," Mr Chapman said.
Asked if he was concerned that going public with his views on some council issues might affect his future employment with the incoming council, Mr Chapman said "not really," and that he planned to retire at the end of his current five-year contract, which was renewed in January this year.