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Mayor says he knew about CEO's misconduct charges before hiring him

Politics

Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate has confirmed he was aware the city’s newly-appointed CEO David Edwards had recently been found to have committed three counts of misconduct by a State Government department before signing him up.

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Edwards beat out the Gold Coast’s CEO of 18 years, Dale Dickson, in a 14-1 vote by the city’s councillors last week for the $600,000-plus position.

“The matters were fully disclosed to me before the execution of a contract,” Tate said today. “Having been fully briefed, and given access to relevant documents relating to the matters, it was clear to me that they had effectively been resolved and I had no hesitation, having regard to the nature of the matters, concluding the contract with Mr Edwards,’’ Tate said in a statement.

However, a number of councillors today confirmed they were not aware of the misconduct findings when choosing the CEO.

Gold Coast Councillor Glenn Tozer, whose division covers the Gold Coast hinterland corridor around Mudgeeraba, told ABC Gold Coast he was not aware of the misconduct finding and it was not discussed during deliberations over the appointment.

“I can tell you that it wasn’t disclosed to me and that I wasn’t made aware prior to the resolution of council that I participated in,” Tozer said.

“The things that we think about when making a big decision are many and varied…the information about this matter may have been material,” he said.

“I don’t know whether it would have changed other people’s minds, but I would have definitely considered it and I don’t believe I had a chance to do that.”

Edwards was revealed by ABC Investigations to have been investigated and found late last year to have used government resources for personal purposes and not declared conflicts of interest.

Edwards was Projects Chief Executive at the Queensland Department of Innovation and Tourism, Industry Development when the investigation was launched.
Before that, and in the timeframe also covered in the allegations, he was the Projects Chief Executive and Director-General of the Department of State Development.

In a statement, Edwards described the misconduct findings as baseless and attacked the investigation process.

“In the weeks preceding the expiration of my contract on 31 August 2020, I was surprised to be advised that I would be the subject of a departmental investigation under sections of the Public Service Act,” he said.

“The process which then followed provided me no natural justice – I did not even know what the allegations were.

“The formal allegations were not made known to me until several weeks after my contract had concluded.

“They were baseless and I chose to strongly respond to, and reject, these allegations.”

Edwards said he was aware a “small group of public servants” were conducting a smear campaign, both to ensure his former contract was not renewed and to undermine his candidacy for the Gold Coast role.

He said he was “considering my legal options”.

“It concerns me greatly that processes designed to protect whistleblowers and guard against misconduct and corruption are increasingly being weaponised for personal vendettas,” he said.

The ABC reported that the findings against Edwards included him having failed to disclose or manage an actual or possible conflict of interest arising from his role as Project Chief and financial delegate for a stadium upgrade and his personal relationship with two Price Waterhouse Coopers executives when PwC was the firm appointed as consultants to the project.

He was also found to have failed to declare a conflict of interest regarding his role on a panel which recruited a woman he was friends with, who was brought into the department as a senior executive. It was found Edwards later approved a $30,000 payment for her to participate in an executive fellowship program.

Edwards was also found to have used staff to undertake errands and manage his personal affairs and that he used departmental premises and facilities for personal purposes, according to the ABC report.

Edwards has not yet commenced as City of Gold Coast CEO. Dickson remains on leave from the position. Chief Operating Officer Joe McCabe is acting CEO.

Dickson on Friday released a farewell statement, telling City of Gold Coast staff there was “a huge opportunity for all of you to be part of the Gold Coast story in coming years.”

“Some of it will involve more change and adaptation in ways that are planned or not yet apparent,” Dickson said.

“The City of Gold Coast will continue to punch well above its weight because it serves a large, rapidly growing city, but also a large influx of visitors on any given day,” he said.

“The depth and breadth of the many proposed actions which are being developed or implemented to improve the liveability of our city, and further future-proof it, is also something to behold.”

 

 

 

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