Tweed Mayor Barry Longland and former GM David Keenan.
Tweed Mayor Barry Longland and former GM David Keenan.

Keenan files unlocked: Council GM sacked for disloyalty

FORMER Tweed Shire Council general manager David Keenan was sacked because the mayor and the majority of councillors believed he had been disloyal.

The Daily News can reveal confidential documents suggest this came because Mr Keenan was co-operating with independent investigations of the council.

This is despite Mr Keenan vigorously protesting that advice received from the Division of Local Government (DLG) gave him no choice.

That is the picture which emerges from documents obtained by the Daily News under freedom of information laws which includes emails and the ex-GM's file notes, with some sections blacked out, dating back to December last year.

Cr Longland believed other options should have been investigated, but Mr Keenan insisted he was following due process as advised by the DLG.

The documents suggest the cracks in Mayor Barry Longland's relationship with the GM either began to appear or widen over the code of conduct complaints Mr Keenan laid against Crs Gary Bagnall and Cr Katie Milne for trespassing on council's quarry at Crystal Creek, late last year.

Cr Longland believed other options should have been investigated, but Mr Keenan insisted he was following due process as advised by the DLG.

The relationship further deteriorated when Mr Keenan informed councillors that he had been advised by the DLG of a "detailed complaint" from Leda Developments, the company behind the Kings Forest and Cobaki residential developments.

Sacked: former Tweed Shire Council general manager David Keenan.
Sacked: former Tweed Shire Council general manager David Keenan. John Gass

Mr Keenan said the DLG believed an investigation was the best way of resolving the complaint.

"I recognise that not everyone will be supportive of this process, however I am not being left with many alternatives," he said.

Cr Longland fired back: "You have every right to question the DLG advice and suggest an alternative course of action - one that demonstrates support for the organisation you lead.

"This decision will be seen down through the ranks of the organisation as one that shows you will take the side of the complainant first than as a last resort," Cr Longland said.

It is difficult to independently assess how binding Mr Keenan's advice was from the DLG as that body has refused to release relevant documents.

Southern Cross University lecturer in local government planning law Serge Killingbeck said the GM was employed by the council not the DLG so the conditions of his employment contract, which have not been disclosed, would have to be known to make this assessment.

Leda's regional manager Reg van Rij has confirmed the documents form the basis of the company's code of conduct complaint that was lodged against the council last month and is now under DLG consideration.

Mr Keenan was dramatically axed by the mayor on March 21 with the support of Crs Bagnall, Milne and Michael Armstrong just 10 months into his contract.

No wish to comment: Tweed Mayor Barry Longland.
No wish to comment: Tweed Mayor Barry Longland. Blainey Woodham

The shock move angered many residents with several hundred turning out to two protest meetings.

Cr Longland told the media Mr Keenan had been a "lone ranger" acting outside the knowledge or authority of the elected body and that the relationship between him and the majority of councillors was "considered irretrievable", but refused to comment further.

Following the DLG's inquiry, acting chief executive Steve Orr said where the relationship between a GM and council breaks down, it "will invariably impact on the capacity of the council to meet the needs of the community".

 

Keenan claims the mayor was acting in his own interests

SACKED GM David Keenan believed the mayor was acting in his own best interests not that of Tweed Shire, was "constantly interfering" in operational matters and was actively undermining him.   

In file notes from February this year Mr Keenan wrote: "I remain concerned that the mayor is not necessarily acting in the best interests of the organisation, instead he seems to be acting in his own best interests.  

"I am concerned about the message he puts out to the community about me and my management styles.  

"I have received feedback about the mayor referring to me in a detrimental manner and indicating that I do not have the support of the council.  

"I believe what I am experiencing at present is (a) high level of bullying from the mayor.  

"I have raised this with the mayor who responded, 'Yeah, you've said that before'."  

Mr Keenan says his idea that the pair enter mediation was rejected by the mayor.   "I do not enjoy being put in this current position by the mayor and would really prefer to get on with the organisational restructure and the incorporation of values," he says.   

"However, the behaviour of the mayor indicates to me that whatever step I attempt to make in reforming the organisation will be vehemently opposed."  

He said the mayor's behaviour was "often erratic".

Given some of the events that are occurring in the workforce at present, I will be recommending to councillors that it would be most appropriate not to have alcohol served with the councillor meal.

 

Keenan believed there was a drug and alcohol problem at the council

 EX-GENERAL Manager David Keenan believed there was a drug and alcohol problem at Tweed Shire Council and was pushing for the introduction of mandatory testing. 

"Given some of the events that are occurring in the workforce at present, I will be recommending to councillors that it would be most appropriate not to have alcohol served with the councillor meal," Mr Keenan wrote in an email to the mayor in December 19, 2012.  

 "It would however be appropriate to allow the consumption of alcohol at the end of a council meeting.   "Implementing these actions would be consistent with the Code of Conduct for councillors and officers."

In a file note dated February 27 this year Mr Keenan was critical of the mayor for being opposed to the introduction of a drug and alcohol policy at the council.  

"He has said to me in very no uncertain terms that he would not want to see a policy proceed at Tweed Shire that may involve random drug and alcohol testing," Mr Keenan writes.  

"I have indicated to the mayor that it is my preference to develop a drug and alcohol random testing policy given incidents that have occurred in the workplace recently.  

"The mayor has told me that he will not be supporting such a move and will ensure that the policy is scuttled.  

"I am concerned the mayor is pre-empting council and policy decisions.  

"It's not his role to determine whether a policy should be put in place or not.  

"Rather that is the role of the entire council based on reports put up by officers."  

In March councillors voted to rescind a previous decision to include drug and alcohol testing in their code of conduct, with Crs Warren Polglase, Caroline Byrne and Phil Youngblutt opposed.   

I have no wish to enter into a public discussion concerning the former GM's departure from this organisation.

 

 

Barry Longland has more important things to deal with

THE Daily News emailed Mayor Barry Longland with a detailed outline of the claims contained in the emails and David Keenan's file notes, offering him the opportunity to respond. 

We received the following message: "Thank you for the opportunity, but I have no wish to enter into a public discussion concerning the former GM's departure from this organisation. 

"As the Mayor, I have far more important issues to deal with as the shire confronts the challenges ahead. 

"These include the engagement of a new general manager with the capabilities required to lead a vibrant organisation and to work with the elected councillors in meeting those challenges. 

"I would, however, draw your attention to the April 2013 report of the Division of Local Government following their review of the dismissal decision, in which no adverse findings were identified." Kind regards Barry"  



Where did Clarrie Hall Dam get its name from?

Where did Clarrie Hall Dam get its name from?

TALKING HISTORY: Max Boyd remembers his mentor and mate Clarrie Hall

Four things to do this weekend

Four things to do this weekend

There's plenty happening across the Tweed this weekend

Jon prepares to lose his locks on his own terms

Jon prepares to lose his locks on his own terms

Bilambil man to cut dreadlocks to raise money for cancer

Local Partners