Snowy Hydro Chairman Bruce Hogan has admitted that the concern in the Monaro community over the announced departure of chief executive Terry Charlton came as a "surprise."
He has also conceded that criticism over the lack of warning to community leaders about the change in leadership had "some validity."
However, in responding directly to a series of questions over the controversial decision to seek a new chief executive, Mr Hogan rejected requests the new CEO should live in Cooma.
"We will not limit our ability to attract the best candidate to lead Snowy Hydro by dictating where he or she is to live," he said.
"The new CEO will be required to spend a similar amount of time in Cooma and the regions, as Terry [Charlton] does now."
In relation to its future commitment to the region, he gave an assurance that the Board continued to support the company investing strategically in the communities in which it operated.
This would be for the benefit of staff and their families and the entire community.
"Importantly, I want to say again there is no need to be concerned that a change in CEO would change that commitment," he said.
Mr Hogan's full response is published below:
"I must concede that the level of concern raised in the community over the commencement of the process to find a new CEO for Snowy Hydro has come as a surprise. Snowy Hydro has been well led for the past 14 years by Terry Charlton and he is rightly well regarded in the community. Fourteen years is an unusually long tenure, the second longest in the history of Snowy, and the company has been the beneficiary.
Not surprisingly, for the past couple of years the Board and Terry Charlton have been in discussions over the appropriate time to commence the search for a successor. The most important responsibility of the Board of Snowy Hydro is to plan for succession to the CEO position. The process the Board is engaged in now to find that successor is very much business as usual for any company but I now realise this is not well appreciated by the community.
Importantly both Terry and the Board agree that now is an appropriate time to look for a successor with the Company performing well, a sound business strategy in place and a strong executive team and skilled workforce. Part of the CEO succession planning process involves keeping shareholders informed. All three Shareholding Ministers support the Board's decision to commence the search for a new CEO.
The CEO search process and subsequent approvals take some months. Assuming a smooth process a new CEO could be in place by July this year. We will not limit our ability to attract the best candidate to lead Snowy Hydro by dictating where he or she is to live. The new CEO will be required to spend a similar amount of time in Cooma and the regions as Terry does now.
The primary concern of the community seems to be a fear that a change in management leadership will lead to a lessening of the acknowledged strong support that Snowy Hydro gives to the local communities. At the opening of the Cooma Universities Centre I assured the community that the Board of Snowy Hydro was committed to being a responsible corporate citizen. The Board has supported, and continues to support Snowy Hydro investing strategically in the communities in which it operates for the benefit of both our people and their families and the entire community. Importantly, I want to say again that there is no need to be concerned that a change in CEO would change that commitment.
The other area of concern expressed to me has been the lack of warning to community leaders of the impending change in Snowy Hydro leadership. This point has some validity. My primary concern at the time was to ensure that all staff of Snowy Hydro heard about the commencement of the CEO search process first. I did not want our people hearing about it for the first time from outside Snowy Hydro. With the benefit of hindsight I should have communicated with community leaders with the same sense of priority. I have since offered to speak with all local mayors and two have taken up that opportunity.
It has been suggested that Terry Charlton join the Snowy Hydro Board on stepping down as CEO. Unfortunately it is not only a position that I believe Terry would have no interest in but it would also require the shareholders to contravene Corporate Governance Best Practice principles.
Looking to the immediate future we should all be united in celebrating Terry's outstanding contribution and wishing him and his family well in the future and looking forward to warmly welcoming the new CEO when the appointment is made. In my experience all interests are best served when each of us takes a constructive and positive approach to change and the opportunities it presents."