Esperance Council approves review deeming chief's performance 'satisfactory'

Shire of Esperance chief executive officer Matthew Scott. Photo: Esperance Express.
Shire of Esperance chief executive officer Matthew Scott. Photo: Esperance Express.

In the wake of a damning community survey, Esperance Shire chief executive officer Matthew Scott will use his pay rise to fund professional development.

The Esperance council accepted an annual review by Price Consulting Group senior consultant Natalie Lincolne behind closed doors at the Ordinary Council Meeting on April 23.

The review found Mr Scott's performance 'satisfactory'.

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Council approved a salary increase of 3.5 per cent, valued about $7800, to be used for professional development in areas identified in the review. The motion was carried unanimously, 7-0, with councillor Shelley Payne on leave and councillor Dale Piercey an apology.

The decision comes after a community perception survey presented on April 2, revealed 61 per cent of respondents believed they received 'poor or terrible' value for money from their rates and a mere 20 per cent trusted the shire to make good decisions on their behalf.

Shire President Victoria Brown confirmed the survey was not presented as a document during the review process, but was "mentioned in discussions".

"It was just never one of those things that was ever written into the brief for Price Consulting," Mrs Brown said.

"Conversations and issues that came out of that perception survey were definitely discussed in the CEO review process, it just wasn't used as a defining document."

There was never any doubt as we worked through the review process that he was meeting operational expectations and doing a good job.

Shire president Victoria Brown.

Mrs Brown said areas identified as needing improvement included 'community leadership and communication skills with the public and media'.

The Shire president said the use of the pay increase for development was Mr Scott's idea.

"He decided not to take that as a cash component, but he suggested to me that he take it as personal development to address those specific areas that were highlighted as room for improvement," she said.

Mrs Brown said council did not consider rejecting the review which found Mr Scott was meeting expectations.

"This council gave the CEO unanimous support, acknowledged that it has been a very difficult two years, acknowledged that he has had an excessively high workload because there's been massive work increase in those particular areas that we've had to address," she said.

"There was never any doubt as we worked through the review process that he was meeting operational expectations and doing a good job.

"That being said, like all of us, there's always room for improvement."

Mrs Brown acknowledged Mr Scott had a "defensive fallback position".

"Sometimes, when you are defensive, it doesn't always elicit a positive response in the person you're talking to. He recognises that that's something he's got to do in improving his communication with the community."

Shire deputy president Natalie Bowman said the shire had scored well in service delivery and found it "interesting" respondents had rated shire decisions and value for rates poorly.

"It was a little bit interesting, because in the actual service delivery where all of that comes from, we received quite high and positive results," she said.

"As a councillor I find that a little bit perplexing."

Mrs Brown defended the chief executive officer as "an incredibly honest man", with an excellent work ethic and organisational skills.

"I've never seen anybody try so hard," she said.

"He is well aware of the perception that some members of the community have of him.

"He just wants to work 100 per cent to improve that perception.

"Let's be fair, give him a fair go. He has said he wants to use his 3.5 per cent to better himself, to better the community and the council. Let's give him a go."