Newcastle City Council has sacked corporate and community planning manager Jill Gaynor and stood down another staff member after an inquiry into the Newcastle Now business group.
The Newcastle Herald has been told a council economic development facilitator has been stood down and asked to show why his employment should not be terminated.
Ms Gaynor, the economic facilitator and city revitalisation coordinator Tim Askew, who resigned two weeks ago, were the main conduits between the council and Newcastle Now, one of five independent “business improvement associations” in the city funded by a special council rate on property owners.
Lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Newcastle Now have had a public falling-out this year over the business group’s advocacy work during light rail works in the city.
Council chief executive officer Jeremy Bath suspended Newcastle Now’s funding in July and launched an external investigation into whether it had been operating without submitting annual business plans, in breach of its 2011 funding agreement.
It’s really sad that she’s not there. I thought she was very hard-working and contributed greatly to the council’s activities.- Newcastle Now chairman Edward Duc
That investigation now appears to have claimed the job of Ms Gaynor, who has been a senior strategic planner at the council since 2010.
In response to questions from the Herald, a council spokesperson said: “Jill Gaynor is no longer a council employee. In the interest of her right to privacy we will not be commenting on the reasons for her departure. As previously stated, a review is underway into the current BIA model to ensure that ratepayer funds are appropriately spent at all times.”
Newcastle Now chairman Edward Duc said on Thursday that it was “really sad” that Ms Gaynor was no longer at the council.
“I thought she was very hard-working and contributed greatly to the council’s activities,” he said. “I have no idea as to why her employment was terminated.”
He was also in the dark about why the other employee had been stood down.
“It’s come as a huge surprise to us. It’s all just very unfortunate, very sad.”
He reiterated his view that Newcastle Now had “invariably acted as we were instructed to by council”.
Councillor John Church (Ind) told the Herald on Thursday that the findings of the Newcastle Now investigation should be made public.
“When the inquiry into council’s dealings with Newcastle Now was announced the CEO made serious allegations around corporate governance irregularities,” he said. “The findings of the inquiry should be made public so the community can have confidence that the special rate variation is being properly accounted for.”
He said the volunteer board members of Newcastle Now also deserved to know about any recommendations in the report.