In what appears to be a very strange strategic move, The City of Greater Geraldton has sacked Rob Smallwood, one of it's most enthusiastic and technology savvy managers whose role as the Manager of Economy, Innovation and Technology saw him heavily involved in the new free public wifi along the foreshore, the NBN roll out in Geraldton and many initiatives the City of Greater Geraldton has been trying to push.
We contacted the City of Greater Geraldton to ask why the decision to dismiss Mr Smallwood was made, and were simply informed that no explanation would be forthcoming.
While the CGG may feel it doesn't owe the people of Geraldton an explanation, many members of the community that have had dealings with Mr Smallwood are scratching their heads as to how someone so competent and positively received by the community could be shown the door.
Owner of Geraldton based internet provider Node 1, Nick van Namen, said "Rob was a great asset from my experience. He was very pleasing to deal with and made things happen. His priority was the best interests of the people of Geraldton."
Paul Sheriff, the Manager of Information Services at the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder, says he used to do Rob Smallwood's job. He said that he was surprised they let Mr Smallwood go as it took so long to find someone for that role. "I don't know if they (C.G.G.) know what they are looking for. It took them about 6 months to fill that position, and Rob was an ideal candidate." Mr Sheriff was also let go by the City of Greater Geraldton in June last year. While Mr Sheriff couldn't speak to the exact reasons behind the decision to let Rob Smallwood go, he questioned what happened behind the scenes to cause the dismissal of someone who was seemingly very suitable for the role.
Executive Officer of local business and entrepreneurs group Pollinators, Andrew Outhwaite, spoke about the difficulties that the frequent changing of staff and priorities within the City causes.
Mr Outhwaite: "Over the past 3 years as Executive Officer at (Pollinators) I've frequently engaged with different individuals at the City of Greater Geraldton to coordinate or partner in our work on supporting innovations, entrepreneurs and making cool stuff happen in our region. Frequently changing and not entirely transparent roles, staff, and priorities within the City make it difficult for organisations like ours, and our members, to work effectively in partnership for the good of the community. We can cite several projects that are apparently community and Council priorities that have not been progressed, lost momentum or are underperforming due to lack of clarity about who's actually accountable, capable and able to act to move the projects forward. While this situation must be challenging for Council and their staff, I can tell you its even more challenging for small organisations like ours and our members."
Mr Outhwaite remains hopeful some of these projects can eventually move forward. "I am not privvy to the details of this particular situation or what can be done to rectify the turnover rates or transparency of accountabilities at the City. We'll take the lead on these projects that are a community priority ourselves, or put them on hold until we have a bit of clarity and certainty about who's working on what, what their priorities are, and what happens to agreements with people who are no longer employed at Council." he said.
A recent survey by the Midwest Chamber of Commerce and Industry found that the number one problem facing businesses in our region was finding suitable staff. Local businesses realise the people working for them are their most valuable asset; does the City?