Cockburn sacks CEO

THERE were more twists – but still no explanations – in Cockburn council’s leadership dramas late

last week with the sacking of CEO Stephen Cain at a meeting that was off-limits to the public.

The situation is so sensitive the council still hasn’t uploaded a press statement from mayor Logan Howlett last week which announced Mr Cain’s departure – while not actually revealing the council had terminated his contract. Mr Howlett thanked the CEO for his time at the city.


The decision came on the same day Fair Work Commission deputy president Abbey Beaumont dismissed an application from Mr Cain calling on the City of Cockburn, mayor Logan Howlett, acting CEO Stuart Downing and councillors Kevin Allen and Lee-Anne Smith to stop bullying him.

Commr Beaumont’s reasons for dismissing the application have not been released.

Mr Cain had lodged his application to the commission on April 6 – the first working day after Cr Smith returned from suspension.

“It has been a super stressful time for some of us and we are now looking forward to supporting the council decision to recruit a new CEO,” Cr Smith posted on her Facebook page last Saturday.

Mr Cain has been on leave since October 23 when he sent an email saying he wasn’t being provided a safe workplace and had been told by his doctor to take two weeks’ rest. The council initiated an investigation into Mr Cain’s claims and told him not to return to work until it had been completed.

Local Government Professionals Australia WA CEO Candy Choo, who accompanied several current and former council chief executives, including former Melville CEO Shayne Silcox, to a Cockburn council meeting last month in support of Mr Cain, said her organisation approached WorkSafe to look into Mr Cain’s complaint.

Ms Choo said their letter was forwarded by FairWork commissioner Darren Kavanagh to his investigators, but they decided against looking into the matter.

“The Occupational Safety and Health Act says they do have a remit to look into an unsafe workplace, so I’m not sure why this one is any different,” Ms Choo told the Herald.

“We were very disappointed by that decision.”

Ms Choo said it had been a very trying time for the council and its community, who needed stability during the uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus.

“It underlines the precarious situation that CEOs can find themselves in,” Ms Choo said.

“The world of politics has shifted. Five, or 10 years ago people … were more neutral, more willing to look at all the options.

“The worldwide politics currently is we are more opinionated, and people representing the ends of the bell curve are getting more exposure.”

She also pointed to media – and particularly social media – for the plight of CEOs, saying there had been more reporting on local government which often was not fair or accurate.


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