LORD mayor Robert Doyle faces an uncomfortable pre-poll rebellion over his bid to appoint former politicians including ex-Labor premier John Brumby to the board of waste and cleaning company Citywide, which is owned by Town Hall.
Fellow councillors and Citywide itself are understood to be resisting an attempt by Cr Doyle to fast-track selection procedures and appoint ''mates'' to the board of the company, established by the council under Jeff Kennett's competitive tendering policies.
Ex-Kennett minister Mark Birrell is also among the list of names proposed for appointment to directorships, which attract up to $125,000 (for the chairing role) a year.
The Age understands that at a confidential council gathering on Tuesday, anxious councillors succeeded in deferring until next week a proposal to endorse names, including Mr Brumby and Mr Birrell, for board positions. In the past such appointments have involved a long and complex process including corporate recruitment companies and close involvement of the existing board.
While belonging to opposing political camps, Cr Doyle and Mr Brumby are understood to be on good terms. In 2007 the Bracks/Brumby government raised political eyebrows when it appointed Cr Doyle as head of public health authority Melbourne Health, after Ted Baillieu deposed him as Liberal leader.
In 2008 then premier Brumby praised Cr Doyle when he announced his first tilt at the lord mayoralty. Cr Doyle ultimately won the city's top job with the help of preferences from ALP-linked candidates including former Geelong mayor Peter McMullin. He has announced he will run for a second term at the council election in October.
Critics within Town Hall and Citywide have slammed the move to appoint Mr Brumby, in particular, as political patronage: either as a thank you for past support and/or as an attempt to maximise Labor support in the run-up to the October council election. Others supportive of the push have pointed to the business and management acumen of both Mr Brumby and Mr Birrell, and to a need to refresh the Citywide board. Current chairman Lyn Davies has been at the helm for all of the company's 17 years.
The Age understands that Cr Doyle has pressured Citywide's Mr Davies to vacate his position to make way for new blood. However, Citywide insiders have confirmed Mr Davies and his fellow directors have opted to stand for re-election when their current terms end in October.
Discussion of the appointments have been deemed confidential at the Town Hall; all those involved including Cr Doyle, Mr Davies, Mr Brumby and Mr Birrell, have either refused to discuss the matter publicly, or failed to return calls.
Since its establishment in 1995, Citywide has grown into a company with turnover of about $250 million and more than 1000 employees. It has turned record profits every year since its founding and has waste, cleaning and park management contracts across the country.
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