14 February 2024

CEO woes continue for Aurukun council

| Chisa Hasegawa
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Aurukun Shire Council’s CEO concerns continue after John Thomas, who was appointed in December 2023, has failed to show up to start in the top job for almost a month. Photo: Cape York Weekly.

Aurukun Shire Council is refusing to be drawn into speculation the new chief executive officer it recycled with an appointment in December 2023 has failed to show up for almost a month past his scheduled commencement date.

At its ordinary meeting on 12 December, 2023, the council voted unanimously to “appoint John Thomas as chief executive officer for a period of three years, commencing on 15 January, 2024”.

But now, five weeks since his onboarding date was ticked off the calendar, Mr Thomas has not started in the top job, and is allegedly no longer answering calls and text messages from the council or its representatives.

Mr Thomas was originally appointed as the remote local government’s CEO in January 2022 following the retirement of long-term council boss Bernie McCarthy, but quit after less than two weeks in the role.

It has been a tumultuous time for Aurukun in the CEO’s office since Mr McCarthy left the organisation.

Including Mr Thomas’ initial brief stint in the role, three CEOs and four acting CEOs have held the reins of council operations over the past two years.

The three permanent CEOS have served an average of just 15 weeks in the top job during that time.

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A number of council staff Cape York Weekly spoke to confirmed the CEO no-show, with one, who asked not to be named, saying the situation had become a “bit of a running joke”.

“Week after week, there’s a new reason why he’s not here,” they said.

“First, it was a missed plane, now, he’s not answering calls from anyone or has blocked their numbers.

“At some stage, they are going to have to admit to everyone he’s just not coming.”

Cape York Weekly reached out to Mayor Keri Tamwoy and acting CEO Graham King for comment about the appointment of Mr Thomas, including why the council believed it was appropriate to reappoint someone who had lasted 10 days in the role previously.

While neither Mayor Tamwoy or Mr King responded to inquiries, the council provided a statement that remained tight-lipped about Mr Thomas’ no-show.

The council would not even acknowledge his appointment, despite it being publicly available in confirmed meeting minutes.

“Aurukun Shire Council extended the contract of the acting CEO Graham King until after the local government elections to ensure continuity of services during the caretaker period,” the statement read.

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