GM refuses to quit board

Mayor Joan Lieshout wants Tweed Shire Council general manager Mike Rayner off the board for Rally Australia.
Mayor Joan Lieshout wants Tweed Shire Council general manager Mike Rayner off the board for Rally Australia. Tweed Daily News

TWEED mayor Joan van Lieshout has revealed she asked the Council's general manager Mike Rayner to resign from his controversial position on the board of Rally Australia because the position created a “conflict of interest”.

Mr Rayner declined the request made earlier this year after taking the matter to all the councillors and receiving backing from a majority.

Yesterday he issued a statement saying a Council vote would be required if the Council wished him to quit the job with the car rally group.

But Cr van Lieshout has not given up - moving to sideline Mr Rayner from any future Council negotiations with rally organisers in a request for them to deal directly with “the elected body”.

Cr van Lieshout revealed her call for Mr Rayner's resignation from the board in the wake of the release of an email trail showing a lengthy and close involvement between Mr Rayner and organisers of the world championship car rally which is planned for the Tweed in September.

“I have asked for the resignation from the board by the general manager and that went to Council,” said Cr van Lieshout.

“The general manager asked for comments from the whole of Council and Council felt it wasn't necessary.”

Cr van Lieshout said following the decision by the NSW Government to approve the rally, she sought to distance Mr Rayner from any future negotiations between organisers and the Council.

“I have asked the rally people that all negotiations go through the elected body in view of the past conflict and I personally believe there was a conflict of interest,” she said.

“I have asked for the elected body to be conferred with. The rally people agreed.”

Earlier this week the No Rally Group called on Mr Rayner to resign from his top council job, his position on the rally board or both following the release of emails they said showed a “very chatty and familiar” attitude not shown to any other developers.

Cr van Lieshout said her request for Mr Rayner to quit the rally board followed concerns expressed by the community when it seemed the Council, not the NSW Government, would be the authority to approve the event.

In a statement issued via email yesterday Mr Rayner said: “I accepted a position on the Repco World Rally Board following a Council resolution...

“If Council wished for me to stand down from the board, this would also need to be a resolution of Council.”

Mr Rayner said the “position provides an opportunity to influ- ence rally outcomes to ensure maximum overall benefit for the Tweed and the region is achieved.

“In defining overall benefit I include the opportunity that the position offers to ensure any impacts - including long-term ecological/environmental sustainability - are appropriately managed, minimised or negated.”

The latest revelation adds strength to speculation about fierce differences between the mayor and the general manager.

Mr Rayner is just over 60 per cent of his way through a five-year contract for the top job which was awarded to him by the council administrators in May 2006. It is due for review in May 2011.

The Caldera Environment Centre unearthed the emails revealing Mr Rayner's close involvement with rally organisers through a Freedom of Information request months ago, but did not publicly release them then.

Executive members of the environmental group hoped instead to work privately to convince Cr van Lieshout to take action as mayor to “reign in” Mr Rayner.

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