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Byron Shire
May 9, 2021

Campaign over GM sacking ‘a farce’

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The highly-orchestrated campaign by Tweed shire’s minority pro-development councillors and their supporters to have the mayor and council sacked for having cut short the general manager’s contract has been slammed by a former councillor and other groups as farcical.

The criticism of the relentless and ‘virulent’ attacks by the conservative lobby on mayor Barry Longland and other councillors who voted with him to sack GM David Keenan last month comes as Division of Local Government officers sent in by the government in response to the backlash ended their inquiry this week.

The campaign, urged on by veteran National Party Cr Warren Polglase and his factional colleagues Crs Phil Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne, has been backed by business group members and their allies who supported the trio’s election campaign last September.

It culminated in a rally at Murwillumbah Showground on Tuesday at which current and former National Party mayors, councillors, MPs and federal candidates were prominent among the placard wavers.

Former Greens councillor Henry James said it was unfortunate that councillors who supported the sacking were not able to ‘speak freely and in detail about their reasons’ as they would ‘probably face a defamation action’.

One of the reasons the breakdown in the relationshsip between the mayor and GM broke down is believed to have been the former GM’s unprecedented unilateral decision to investigate his own staff and councillors on the back of ‘complaints’ by the Tweed’s biggest developer, Leda, and requesting the investigation be kept secret.

Another line of speculation was Mr Keenan’s move to charge two progressive councillors with a code of conduct breach for going into a council quarry to look at pollution of the waterway which neighbours had long complained about.

Mr James told Echonetdaily that ‘if the GM had indeed decided to have the so-called “Leda dossier” reinvestigated, that in my view would by itself be reason for sacking, especially if he had made the decision without first putting the matter before council’.

He said the GM’s ‘pre-emptory decision to spend ratepayers money for the second time’ to investigate claims were bizarre given the claims had already been discredited, and the campaign supporting him a ‘farce’.

‘After all, the accusations in the dossier had been dismissed by the previous council at the advice of the previous GM. They had also been effectively dismissed by the state government which has taken no action on them,’ he said.

Lost support

‘It is no wonder the GM had lost the support of councillors if, as has been reported, he informed them he was reinvestigating accusations made against them by Leda, refused to give them details of the accusations and warned them not to say anything about the investigation. If there was any substance to the accusations Leda would have put them before an appropriate tribunal long ago.

‘It was inappropriate for the GM to do anything more with the accusations than to advise them accordingly.

‘Most people do not realise that GMs of councils have enormous power. Councillors have very little. The choice of GM is the one significant power they have.

‘If a GM is unwilling or unable to accept a significant shift in political tenor and policy after an election, it is time for him to move on. It certainly would not be appropriate for him to run his own agenda, or that of the minority of councillors,’ Mr James said.

Pottsville Community Association and Wooyong Residents Group president Chris Cherry said the councillors’ ‘took a strong position and that needs to be trusted and respected’.

Ms Cherry said majority councillors had lost faith in their employee ‘and at the end of the day the GM has a lot of responsibility and they need to have complete faith in him and if they can’t have that they need to find a new employee.

‘I really liken it to a large company where a company director has decided to sack a CEO, the shareholders don’t always get the information straight away about why that has to happen but you have to accept they are within their rights to do that’, she said.

One council watcher told Echonetdaily before Tuesday’s rally that ‘it would be diverting to see which of our business leaders support an employee who, reportedly, has had the temerity to initiate an investigation of his bosses. An investigation seemingly based on the semi-secret hit list of a disgruntled client’.

A report from the Division of Local Government investigators is expected to be presented to local government minister Don Page later this month.

 


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6 COMMENTS

  1. The two Councillors that were reported for a Misdemeanour should not have voted. They had a good reason to see the GM not be the GM. The vote should have been held over till the Misdemeanours were dealt with and then the vote should have been put again. This is the only Just and fair way for this problem to be handled. That’s true democracy working then. Thanks
    Ross

  2. It looks like the Tweed Chamber of Commerce President, Rory Curtis and his vice President, Councillor Warren Polglase , who might appear to be behind the “rent a crowd ” attempt to discredit the councillors for sacking the Tweed GM, could end up with egg on their faces when the result of the State Government investigation is published.
    Minority Pressure groups who seem to make a habit of trying to direct council business from the “sideline” invariably cause the community more harm than good. And Councillors who would operate with a foot in both camps do the community, ABSOLUTLEY NO GOOD AT ALL.

  3. I think it might be a good idea to leave politics out of the debate, period. At the end of the day each and every citizen of the Tweed Shire just needs to look around the district to see what a lacklustre and possibly desperate situation the Tweed finds itself in today. An ageing population leaps and bounds ahead of the national average, almost nil employment opportunities and until David Keenan arrived no vision for the future or a plan to get there. The so called “progressives” have just managed to set the Tweed back by nobody knows how long. The previous General Manager put every bit of relevant information from the TEDC regarding facts about the future of the Tweed into draw and forgot about them. Sure, all of us love the Tweed, love the environment, love our community, but where is the sustainability of all these “loves” going to come from? Employment is the only key to the door of the future and judging by the number of businesses the Tweed has lost in the thirty three years I’ve been here, I can’t say that me or any anyone I know can say they feel secure about what lies ahead. In thirty three years the Tweed has lost 1,092 dairy farms from the original 1,100. Just in Murwillumbah, a radio station gone, a newspaper gone, a Medicare office gone, five engineering firms gone, a Ford dealership gone, a Holden dealership gone, Subaru and Mitsubishi dealerships gone, two national brand stores gone from the main street and more traders packing up to leave very shortly. David Keenan has the vision and the skill to make the future of the whole of the Tweed sustainable. The progressives are a group of reactionaries who have just locked to door to any future benefits for a long time to time. Lots of people would like to live in our beautiful shire and we surely welcome tree changers, but the only way our shire will be sustainable is through job creation. That is a challenge I don’t believe progressive councillors are able to achieve without a visionary and skilled General Manager like David Keenan.

    • Robert Franzos are you saying that council’s GM is the one and only person who can determine the financial success of our entire shire? And are you also saying that the previous GM Mike Rayner failed in his role to economically help the shire? Have you even considered the global economic downturn in the loss of various businesses? And how about the loss of businesses on the Gold Coast, is that due to the failure of GCCC’s GM ~ or can David Keenan wave a magic wand and help them too? You might like to look at this man’s history when he was GM of Mitchell council in Victoria before judging the progressive councillors and Mayor so harshly.

  4. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the GM can actually do nothing to implement policy and direction unless that direction is first resolved by Council. It is Council that sets policy. The GM has the responsibility of using the resources of Council to effectively and efficiently implement those policies. That is the law. Pure and simple. Using a rent a crowd to attempt to suggest that somehow the GM is the tail that is capable of wagging the dog is ludicrous and actually demeaning to the office of Councillor (even to Polglase and his cronies.
    GM’s come and go in Council’s everywhere and the world hardly ever ends. This so-called “people’s demonstration” (it’s always a give away when a supposedly community driven and spontaneous crowd arrives in printed T shirts and professionally made signs)is nothing but a thinly-veiled political act of grandstanding. David Keenan will be replaced and Tweed Shire will move on. Let’s hope Polglase and his mates do the same.

  5. Hang on a minute. I don’t know a lot about the machinations of political intrigue but I have some knowledge how normal business works.
    If an employee who answers to a group of bosses, enters into an agreement with a disgruntled customer who can’t get what he wants from the majority of said bosses,and that agreement entails seeking information damaging to the said bosses, and whose actions carried out on the instructions of said disgruntled client, and if I was part or whole of the said majority of bosses , Then that previously mentioned employee would get the old heave- ho and bloody good riddance.I’m sure Warren or any of his honourable bossmates would do exactly the same

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