Second Newcastle council employee sacked after Newcastle Now investigation

Newcastle’s City Hall. An investigation into the operations of Newcastle Now has claimed another council employee after economic development facilitator Greg Fenwick was shown the door on Wednesday.

The Herald reported last week that Newcastle City Council had sacked corporate and community planning manager Jill Gaynor and stood down another staff member after an inquiry into the ratepayer-fundedbusiness group.

Mr Fenwick was the employee who had been stood down.

Ms Gaynor, Mr Fenwick and city revitalisation coordinatorTim Askew, whoresigned two weeks ago,were the main liaisons between the council and Newcastle Now, one of five independent “business improvement associations” in the city funded bya special council rate on property owners.

Read more:Council cuts off Newcastle Now funding over business plans

The council has not explained the reasons for the two sackings nor made public the findings of the Newcastle Now investigation.

Itsaid last week that it would not comment on Ms Gaynor’s departure“in the interest of her right to privacy”.

The departures of Mr Fenwick, Ms Gaynor and Mr Askew bring to 15 the number of senior and mid-ranking council staff to have left the organisation this year.

Planning director Peter Chrystal, regulatory services manager Andrew Baxter,cultural facilities director Liz Burcham and civil works manager Greg Essex left as part of a staff restructure announced in March.

Others to leave since then include seven in the areas of customer service,development and building, the Civic Theatre,human resources, facilities and recreation, communications, and internal audit.

Read more:Council sacks strategic planning manager after Newcastle Now investigation

The chairman of the council’s audit and risk committee, Dr Col Gellatly, a former long-time head of the NSW premier’s department, quit in April over the restructure.

Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Newcastle Now have had a public falling-out this year over the business group’s advocacy work.

Council chief executive officer Jeremy Bathsuspended Newcastle Now’s fundingin July and launched an external investigationinto whether it had been operating without submitting annual business plans, in breach of its 2011 funding agreement.

Thatinvestigation has now claimed the jobs of Ms Gaynor, who has been at the council since 2010, and Mr Fenwick.

Read more:Newcastle Now, council to thrash out light rail business relief fund

Newcastle Now chairman Edward Duc said last week that Ms Gaynor’s sacking was “very unfortunate, very sad” and praised her as “very hard-working”.

The council has said it isalso conducting a separate inquiry into the“current BIA model to ensure that ratepayer funds are appropriately spent at all times”.

The council​oversees other business improvement associations at Hamilton, Mayfield and Wallsend.