Managers suspended as council holds inquiry

 UNCERTAINTY surrounds the jobs of two senior Newcastle City Council managers after they were suspended on full pay yesterday ‘‘pending an investigation’’.

 The executives are  ‘‘future city’’ director Judy Jaeger and Newcastle Art Gallery director Ron Ramsey.

Under the council department structure, Ms Jaeger is effectively Mr Ramsey’s ‘‘boss’’.

The Newcastle Herald learnt of the action through an anonymous tip-off late yesterday.

The Herald understands that councillors were told of the action last night in an email from council general manager Ken Gouldthorp.

 The email described the suspension as an ‘‘operational matter’’ and warned councillors not to speak publicly about it.

All parties involved were certainly tight-lipped last night.

No reasons were given for the council suspensions, and the Herald is not suggesting that either manager has done anything wrong. The Herald left phone messages for Ms Jaeger and Mr Ramsey, as well as various council figures including the lord mayor, Jeff McCloy.

One councillor who did answer her phone, Labor’s Nuatali Nelmes, said she had been emailed about a ‘‘confidential operational matter and was not able to comment’’.

The chairman of the art gallery foundation, Rob Henderson, said he knew nothing of the situation but was ‘‘shocked and dismayed’’ when he learnt of the suspensions.

‘‘Ron Ramsey is someone who has an exemplary record and I would dearly like to know what the grounds are for this, but to me it seems to be very intimidatory,’’ Dr Henderson said.

The Herald was told of the situation yesterday afternoon and contacted Cr McCloy’s chief of staff, Gillian Summers.

Soon after, Ms Summers rang back and said it was a council operational matter and that media requests should instead be directed to Mr Gouldthorp.

Despite numerous requests, Mr Gouldthorp did not return calls, nor did the council public relations department issue a statement.

A council communications spokesperson offered little more than saying Mr Gouldthorp was ‘‘unlikely to respond’’ last night.

Some council staff were under the impression Ms Jaeger had gone on leave.   

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