Statement on Jill Gaynor employment termination appeal

23 Mar 2021

Today, as a consequence of a negotiated outcome, the NSW Court of Appeal upheld part of City of Newcastle’s (CN) appeal regarding the termination of Jill Gaynor’s employment.

The appeal was upheld in relation to an important aspect of what CN argued was a significant error in the District Court’s decision last year. In short, the Court today confirmed CN had a lawful right to terminate Ms Gaynor’s employment and reduced the damages payable to her. Further, error was also acknowledged with respect to the judge of the District Court who heard this matter in that he failed to have regard to CN’s evidence which gave rise to CN’s right to terminate Ms Gaynor’s employment.

CN took the view in 2018, following an extensive independent review, that Ms Gaynor’s conduct in managing Business Improvement Associations (BIAs) was not to the standard required, and made the decision to terminate her employment accordingly.

This decision to terminate Ms Gaynor’s employment was, in part, as a consequence of Ms Gaynor, between 2015 and 2018, approving the release of significant amounts of Special Business Rate funding to Newcastle Now despite the absence of a Business Plan at any time during the 3 years.

Financial statements provided by Newcastle Now for the period 2015/16 to 2017/18 reveal that the BIA spent $1,384,488.95 on wages and a further $287,799.70 on administration, representing 56% of its total income. Such expenditure was never the purpose of the Special Purpose Levy.

CN sets a high standard for its senior staff, especially in ensuring public money is administered appropriately and as required by law. Today’s outcome in the Court of Appeal confirmed CN’s right to bring Ms Gaynor’s employment to an end prior to the completion of her senior staff contract term.

CN takes very seriously its obligations to ratepayers with respect to accounting for levied funds and their divestment. Compliance with the Local Government Act 1993 (NSW) was at the very core of CN’s concern with the District Court decision, and the reason it pursued this matter to the Court of Appeal.

Following the termination of Ms Gaynor’s employment and, in light of the above, CN has taken significant steps to ensure its processes regarding the expenditure of ratepayer funds are transparent and accountable. CN looks forward to the continued successful management of its new BIA structure and notes the many fruitful projects already delivered across the Local Government Area, as well as the Hamilton BIA being awarded the 2021 Community Group of the Year.