Viv May has been around a long time, but has been surprised already by what he has found at Armidale Regional Council.
"I've been in local government for nearly 50 years and I thought I'd seen it all until I came here," the new council administrator said on Thursday morning.
As he held the first council meeting since he arrived in Armidale to replace the suspended councillors, Mr May said he still had a lot to get his head around. But he has already made some observations.
"My initial reaction is I'm very surprised at the waste of public money that's gone on," he said.
Specifically he mentioned the code of conduct issues raised against councillors.
Mr May said without doing much research, he had picked up that problem from a question Cr Dorothy Robinson had asked querying the amount of money the council had spent on code of conduct complaints.
"I shook my head," Mr May said. "I think it was $180,000."
On a fact finding mission, Mr May said he hoped to come up with a conclusion by talking to the suspended councillors, staff and anyone else who brought information to him to get to the bottom of how the council reached the stage where it could no longer work together.
"I want everyone to have confidence that they can come and talk to me," he said, describing himself as a big sponge for information about the council.
"I will respect them, and I hope they will respect what I do as well. It's important that anybody can talk to me. Staff members, former staff members, they all might have stories. I want to hear them."
Earlier he had told the meeting that no one else would be opening his emails or opening mail addressed to him.
Mr May said he had seen plenty of times over the years where there had been conflict between councillors, and between councillors and council staff, but he said normally they were managed and resolved.
Mr May has already spoken to most of the suspended councillors, but he admitted it would be a challenge to find out where it all went wrong in three months.
"I just want to get to the bottom of it, to put the jigsaw puzzle together, whether I can in three months, I don't know."
At Thursday's meeting he approved the plan and budget for 2020-21 to go on public display.
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