Ballina MP and minister for the north coast Don Page has told local media it may never be possible to reveal publicly the full reasons for the sacking of Tweed Shire general manager David Keenan last month, just ten months into his three year contract.
Rumours have circulated regarding the reasons for the termination, which was taken by Tweed Shire councillors at their March meeting with a 4–3 vote. Conservative, pro-development councillors Youngblutt, Polglase and Byrne opposed the move.
Following the sacking, members of the Tweed business and farming community organised a campaign to in turn sack the council, including a protest meeting at the Murwillumbah Showground last week.
The minister subsequently sent two investigators from the Division of Local Government to look into the reasons behind the sacking. They concluded their investigations last week and their report will be handed to the minister this week.
But Mr Page says the council were within their rights to sack the GM, although he questioned whether it was ethical to do so.
He told ABC local radio this morning, ‘the council legally have the capacity to dismiss the general manager… Whether that’s appropriate morally I think that’s a different issue and that’s why it was important to put in two experienced investigators… to enlighten me and the community as a whole.’
He added, however, that some aspects of the investigation may need to remain confidential.
‘It may well be that certain aspects of the report may not be appropriate to release because people named in them do not want that information out there.’
But he said his preference was the report should be made available publicly ‘unless there was some overwhelming reason not to’.
Meanwhile, Tweed mayor Barry Longland has said that allegations surrounding major developer Leda in relation to the struggle between the GM and the elected councillors were not central to the sacking.
Leda, the company behind the Kings Forest and Cobaki ‘mini cities’, released ‘secret’ dossiers’ during the term of the last council naming certain councillors as being a drag on its development plans and urged then GM Mike Rayner to investigate them.
Mr Rayner declined to do so but it has been suggested that Leda’s dossier was revived by Mr Keenan and that he was planning to secretly investigate certain councillors over the allegations.
‘Rumours that there was some kind of Leda allegation that I am keeping from the public are completely unfounded and misleading,’ Cr Longland told APN Media on the weekend.
But he added that ‘developers don’t like the speed at which development applications are dealt with. The Leda developments are very big. They could have an impact on the environment that lasts forever. We need to do a service to the future community of Tweed and they might not like it.’