David Keenan, the sacked general manager at Tweed Shire Council.
David Keenan, the sacked general manager at Tweed Shire Council. John Gass

The Keenan files: Ex-GM now seeks damages sum for sacking

TWEED Shire Council may be forced to defend in court its controversial decision to sack former general manager David Keenan.

The Daily News has learnt the council received a letter from a lawyer representing Mr Keenan claiming his employment contract was breached when he was dramatically axed on March 21 by a majority of councillors.

It is understood Mr Keenan, who was just 10 months into his contract, is seeking a damages payout for an undisclosed sum from the council.

It would come on top of the standard $204,000 payout he received after Mayor Barry Longland and councillors Michael Armstrong, Katie Milne and Gary Bagnall voted to dismiss him.

Mayor Longland and acting general manager Troy Green declined to comment this week.

But a council spokeswoman said: "Council maintains that it has fully met its contractual obligations in relation to the contract of employment with Mr Keenan."

Mr Keenan was asked this week if he intended to pursue the matter in court but he did not respond.

It is believed Mr Keenan's deadline for a response from the council to his claim expired about four weeks ago.

Cr Carolyn Byrne, who was one of three councillors including Warren Polglase and Phil Youngblutt who opposed the sacking, said she was not surprised by Mr Keenan's move.

Cr Byrne said she was not aware of what breach of contract Mr Keenan was alleging but he had a right to pursue his claim.

She said she stood by her claim that Mr Keenan should have been protected from sacking under the Whistleblower's Act and his dismissal was a breach of the code of meeting practice, as the mayor never explained his reasons for putting forward the notice of motion.

"I don't know how much it will cost (ratepayers)," she said.

Colin Brooks, spokesman for Tweed Accountability Inc, which organised protest meetings against the sacking, said the "mountain of evidence" that had emerged under Freedom of Information showed the ex-GM was unfairly dismissed.

"That's more cost onto the ratepayers of Tweed Shire Council that should never have happened," he said.

"There are some serious questions that need to be answered by that group of four councillors who plotted to dismiss the former GM under what now seems to be very unsavoury circumstances. We hope that David Keenan will end up with some kind of justice and those responsible will get their just desserts."


A shining performance review did not save Keenan

EX-Tweed Shire Council general manager David Keenan's work performance was rated "more than satisfactory" with no improvement opportunities identified, just 136 days before the majority of councillors voted to axe him.

Mayor Barry Longland and councillors who participated in Mr Keenan's six-month performance review on November 5 last year, rated him 4 or 5 (the highest possible rating) for 32% of measures and satisfactory or meeting performance requirements for the remaining 62%. 

Tweed Heads resident Terry Sharples, who accessed Mr Keenan's confidential 28-page peformance review last week under the Government Information Public Access Act (GIPA), said the document would provide the ex-GM with powerful ammunition if he mounted a legal challenge against his sacking.     

Extracts from Keenan's performance review four months before he was sacked:   Performance summary:    "The review was very positive however a few things were discussed that had been topical during the review including:

  • Keeping council regularly updated when capital works or scheduled maintenance work is not completed or likely not to be completed to the delivery plan
  • Councillor induction
  • Destination Tweed
  • Meeting procedures
  • Innovative thinking around additional revenue streams
  • GM to introduce councillor workshops on finance and budgeting

Performance measures:    Performance measure - To support council and the mayor in carrying out their duties and provide advice on policy matters: "Council is generally satisfied with the level of information and advice provided to them by the GM in his first six months.  

No issues raised. Councillor induction progressed with some feedback given on information overload, however the new councillors were happy with what they received."  

Performance measure - Provides leadership by being visible and positive: "Very positive overall. The council acknowledges that the GM is getting around the organisation and engaging with staff.

The mayor did raise a comment about the GM's body language at times being a bit off-putting.

The GM took the feedback on board."   

Performance measure - Establish a working relationship with Leda Properties: "GM is trying hard to get a reasonable relationship with Leda."   

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