Tweed Council sacks GM


That was then… sacked Tweed GM David Keenan at Tweed River Art Gallery just weeks after his appointment in April last year. Photo Jeff Dawson

Luis Feliu

Tweed Shire Council late last night sacked general manager David Keenan just 10 months into his three-year contract, with majority councillors citing a loss of trust in his ability to continue in the highly-paid job.

The surprise move comes after what is believed to have been an irreparable breakdown in relations between the GM and the mayor over various issues in the 10 months Mr Keenan has been in the job.

Mayor Barry Longland moved in a late urgency motion to terminate Mr Keenan’s contract in a closed-door session after the general council meeting and majority councillors agreed, with a 4-3 vote (Crs Warren Polglase, Phil Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne against).


Tweed Mayor Barry Longland. Photo Luis Feliu

Late this morning, a rescission motion on the move failed, along the same voting lines. Cr Longland issued a statement saying he would be appointing an acting general manager as soon as possible.

‘There is a clause in the general manager’s contract which permits the termination of the contract without notice and without a reason being necessary,’ Cr Longland said.

‘In making this decision, Council was acting in the best interests of the Tweed community.

‘I want to reassure Tweed residents and ratepayers that it is business as usual for the Shire and Council has an experienced senior management team which will ensure no disruptions to Council business.’

It’s believed Mr Keenan will be paid out the remainder of his contract and has been given several days’ notice. One of four council directors is expected to be appointed acting general manager next week.

The move to cut short the GM’s contract came only days after Cr Longland returned from a three-week overseas holiday.

There was no clue during last night’s open council meeting of the move, which came during the confidential session when members of the press and public were excluded.

But council watchers say several issues which the GM handled had soured relations between Mr Keenan and majority councillors.

These include the secret charging of two councillors for a code of conduct breach after they entered a council quarry to investigate longstanding claims by a neighbouring resident of pollution of a waterway by the quarry operations.

Reports had also circulated that staff morale at council had sunk recently due to internal restructuring and policies instigated by the GM, who took up his appointment at the end of April last year.

But the last straw, Echonetdaily has been told, was an unprecedented action by Mr Keenan to secretly investigate not only his staff but councillors on the back of ‘complaints’ made by the Tweed’s biggest developer, the Leda Group, which is behind the massive Kings Forest and Cobaki developments.

The staff and councillors were apparently also warned not to say anything about the so-called investigation.

The move came just after Cr Longland left for his holiday and this is believed to have infuriated him.

It also rang alarm bells for some councillors who had previously been accused by Leda of slowing down their developments.

Leda in 2011 gave a so-called ‘secret’ 74-page ‘dossier’ to local media with details of people they considered to be hurdles to their developments, including local ecologists and councillors.

Some people were targeted in the ‘dossier’ simply because they made submissions to public consultation processes.

Mr Keenan, 47, replaced former long-serving general manager Mike Rayner. Before his appointment to Tweed shire, Mr Keenan was chief executive officer of Mitchell Shire Council on the northern outskirts of Melbourne.

But he quit that job only after 18 months, with local media describing it as a ‘shock resignation’, given he had also overseen an extensive restructure of the council’s organisation and processes.

Local media reported that Mr Keenan told councillors he was leaving that shire for the Tweed for lifestyle reasons.

Before his role at the helm of Mitchell Shire Council, Mr Keenan spent four years as director, city sustainable development at neighbouring Hume Shire Council.

The decision to appoint him at the helm of Tweed shire’s administration was a unanimous one taken by six of the seven councillors.

Cr Katie Milne had boycotted that meeting, as she had been controversially expelled from the selection panel by other councillors after telling Echonetdaily it would have been ‘wonderful’ to see a female general manager get the top job or someone with environmental credentials.

5 responses to “Tweed Council sacks GM”

  1. Investigation Needed the entire culture of council needs to be investigated

  2. Kevin says:

    Great, so Tweed rate payers (slugged an arm and two legs already) now have to pay out this guy out and then pay another GM for the next two years because the wrong decision was originally made as to the right person for the job…
    Why is it WE always lose because of council incompetence?
    This is after council wasted more of OUR money to pursue Cr Milne… Do we even need councils or are they just another government money pit with no real value?

  3. Blocker says:

    So they are paying him out the remainder of his contract. If memory serves me correctly, he was on $300,000+ per annum so he will receive close to $1 million of ratepayers’ money – and now we still have to pay someone else to do the job! I hope I’ve got this wrong …

  4. Cr. Katie Milne seems to be on the money again… now it maybe time to listen to her and make a good choice for a female GM to our shire.

  5. seems like it was good riddance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Become a supporter of The Echo

A note from the editorial team

Some of The Echo’s editorial team: journalists Paul Bibby and Aslan Shand, editor Hans Lovejoy, photographer Jeff Dawson and Mandy Nolan

The Echo has never underestimated the intelligence and passion of its readers. In a world of corporate banality and predictability, The Echo has worked hard for more than 30 years to help keep Byron and the north coast unique with quality local journalism and creative ideas. We think this area needs more voices, reasoned analysis and ideas than just those provided by News Corp, lifestyle mags, Facebook groups and corporate newsletters.

The Echo is one hundred per cent locally owned and one hundred per cent independent. As you have probably gathered from what is happening in the media industry, it is not cheap to produce a weekly newspaper and a daily online news service of any quality.

We have always relied entirely on advertising to fund our operations, but often loyal readers who value our local, independent journalism have asked how they could help ensure our survival.

Any support you can provide to The Echo will make an enormous difference. You can make a one-off contribution or a monthly one. With your help, we can continue to support a better informed local community and a healthier democracy for another 30 years.”

Echonetdaily is made possible by the support of all of our advertisers and is brought to you by this week's sponsors Vast Furniture & Homewares Ballina and Falls Festival Byron Bay.