Operating in the public eye: Local Council Managers & Officers Forum

Date - 20 September 2018
Venue - Mantra Parramatta

Local councils today face constant challenges:

  • Transparency, efficiency and cost effectiveness must be balanced with increasing demands by ratepayers for improved and new services.
  • Decision making processes are subject to greater scrutiny than ever before.
  • Delivering clear, consistent and credible communications across all platforms – including social media – is a growing challenge that few, if any, organisations are yet to master.

70 years of acting for local councils has given us a unique perspective on the world in which you operate. We understand that solutions which are legally effective in the private sector may not always translate to local government.

Please join us on 20 September for a FREE in-depth forum on the major issues facing local government, and approaches for successfully managing them.

Please feel free to extend this invitation to your Council colleagues.


8.30 AM

Registration & full buffet breakfast

9.00 AM

Communicating in an era of transparency: Five rules for organisations operating in the public eye - Chris Fogarty, Director, FMC Change

Driven by the rise of social media, muddied by scandals and fuelled by public inquiries, organisations that serve and interact with the broader community are facing a growing level of distrust.

That makes being able to deliver clear, consistent and credible communications ever more challenging.

Using local and international case studies this session will cover the five communication strategies needed to be adopted across organisations in an era of transparency.  Issues covered will include:

  • The rise of social media and the manufactured “crisis”
  • The decline of traditional media and its implications for your organisation's reputation
  • How successful grassroot community campaigns operate and how to best engage with them
  • Countering growing community distrust through strategic communications

FMC Change advises local, regional and international organisations on strategic communications, crisis and change management.

10.00 AM

Choose ONE from the following sessions:

1. Commercial Disputes/Building & Construction

Unwelcome media commentary – what can you do about it - Gavin Stuart, Bartier Perry

Council activities can sometimes attract the attention of community groups and the media, potentially exposing Council and its staff to negative comment through direct comment, social and traditional media. In this session we explore some of the legal issues that this type of activity presents for Council, and strategies for managing issues when they arise.

Transparency in procurement – avoiding complaints, court and ICAC - David Creais, Bartier Perry

Councils are bound by specific legislation that demands transparency in contracting, with a view to preventing collusion, corruption and nepotism (and paying greater than market prices). Getting the process wrong can lead the Council and the responsible officer finding themselves subject to public complaints and potentially embarrassing court action, not to mention a referral to ICAC. In this session we identify the legislation and what you must do to comply, and discuss common traps and pitfalls and how to avoid them.  

2. Workers Compensation

Factual investigation of psychological injury workers compensation claims: why, how, tensions and outcomes - Mick Franco, Bartier Perry

  • Why are factual investigations required?
  • Assembling relevant information and material prior to engagement of the investigator
  • Chronology of potentially relevant events
  • Assembling information about potentially relevant non-work events
  • Properly briefing the investigator and focusing the investigator on the issues - the insurer
  • Witnesses and witness statements
  • Privacy considerations
  • Dual investigations - workers compensation factual investigation and separate HR investigation – tensions
  • Working with the insurer or self-insurance unit to achieve better workers compensation outcomes for the injured worker and Council

3. Property

Crown lands and changes to contracts for sale of land - Melissa Potter & Peter Barakate, Bartier Perry

The long-awaited commencement of the new Crown land legislation has taken place. It is therefore timely to consider the areas where councils will experience the greatest change.

We will also discuss the impact of changes to the payment of GST at the settlement of property sales and other changes to contracts for the sale of land.

11.00 AM

Morning Tea

11.30 AM

Choose ONE from the following sessions:

4. Corporate & Commercial 

Good decision-making for Government - Norman Donato, Bartier Perry

  • The requirements for natural justice
  • The duty of government agencies to take reasonable care
  • The impact of administrative law principles

5. Workplace Law & Culture

Workplace investigations and disciplinary processes:  a need to open the books? - James Mattson & Darren Gardner, Bartier Perry

Invariably, an employee subject to a complaint, investigation or disciplinary process, or a disgruntled complainant, will ask to see the complaint, any investigation report or witness statements.  From an employment and administrative law perspective, does Council need to open the books and give employees and complainants open access to all records unrestrained?

6. Environment & Planning

The Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 is one of NSW’s most amended Acts

In this session we will discuss the latest round of the 2018 amendments, how they will affect councils and how councils can be prepared for them. We will also provide an overview of the amendments that are scheduled to come in 2019.

Being an expert witness in the Land and Environment Court

Appearing in Land and Environment Court proceedings as an expert witness can be a daunting prospect. However, having council officers appear as experts in lieu of engaging external consultants has a range of benefits to councils including bringing greater understanding of council’s development objectives to proceedings, upskilling its workforce and minimising costs associated with defending appeals.

In this session, we will provide an overview of the process and some useful tips to being an expert witness.

- Dennis Loether, Steven Griffiths and Laura Raffaele, Bartier Perry 

12.30 PM

Forum concludes


Mantra Parramatta - cnr Parkes St & Valentine Ave Parramatta



Free of charge


Parking & Transport

Parking options include Mantra Parramatta and two nearby Secure Parking Stations (Parramatta station and Valentine St).  The venue is a 5 minute walk from the train station.


By 13 September unless the event is booked out prior. Limited seating - book early to avoid disappointment. Please indicate below which sessions you would like to attend (Opening address, 1-6).