Sacked GM speaks out about ‘ongoing harassment’ at council

Graham Kennett has been sacked as general manager without a reason or warning. Photo: Contributed

Susanna Freymark

Graham Kennett has had to deal with his shock sacking as Kyogle Council general manager at the council meeting yesterday, Monday, December 11.

“My time at Kyogle Council ended last night after almost 25 years, and without any warning or reason,” Mr Kennett said.

“The mayor and councillors Cooper, Cullen, Murray and May voted to terminate my contract using the no fault clause.

“This was only a couple of months after my most recent performance review, which resulted in an above satisfactory outcome, and the release of the audited financial statements which show that council is in the best financial position it has ever been in.”

The motion to dismiss Mr Kennett came at the end of the meeting yesterday.

Councillors Danielle Mulholland, Hayden Doolan and Janet Wilson walked out of the council chambers when they were asked to vote. Councillor John Burley was excluded from voting because Mr Kennett is his son-in-law.

The obvious question everyone is asking me is, Why? Mr Kennett said.

“Why would anybody spend over $330,000 of ratepayers’ money to get rid of a perfectly good general manager running a high performing council?

“Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer, there are only five people who can answer that, and so far they have offered nothing.

“The mayor didn’t even have the decency to advise me of the outcome and had one of the staff serve me with my letter of termination instead. That was not really surprising though. I have always worked hard in service to the community, and treated everyone in a fair and balanced manner, and held myself and others to a high ethical and moral standard. Despite this, it would appear as though there has been a concerted effort by some councillors during this term to undermine me in the role of general manager.”

Mr Kennett said the ongoing harassment made for a hostile workplace and considerable unnecessary additional pressure on him and his family.

“The six confirmed breaches of the Code of Conduct by councillors so far during this term, including the formal censure of councillors Murray and Cooper, do not reflect well on the council as a whole,” he said.

“No doubt there will be more to come.”

He said he was humbled to hear that council staff had gathered at the council depot and the offices this morning to pass a vote of no confidence in the mayor and the five councillors who voted to sack him.

The staff called for a public inquiry into the decision making process and lack of transparency from the mayor and councillors.

“Their support means the world to my family and I and has given us the strength to carry on despite this setback.

“If the community feel that the decisions of the council have not been made with their best interests in mind, then the community can call upon the Minister for Local Government and the Office of Local Government to intervene and hold a public inquiry or dismiss the councillors and appoint an administrator.

“Unfortunately, this does not change the outcome for me, but it would at least allow the community to hear the truth, and to hold those to account who have not been acting in the public interest.”

Mr Kennett said he was extremely proud of his achievements at Kyogle Council, and of the work that all the staff have done in the face of seemingly relentless challenges over the past three or four years dealing with the covid pandemic, bushfires, drought and floods, as well as delivering the largest bridge renewal program in NSW.

“The area has seen positive growth again for the first time in over 30 years, and the local economy is strong and the community is well placed for the future. I want to thank all the staff for the way they rose to these challenges and their hard work and perseverance during this time, and for their service to the community.”

“I wish all the staff and the remaining councillors well and thank them dearly for the support they have shown me over the years.

“I have made some lifelong friendships and connections along the way, and for that I am truly grateful. I also want to thank the members of the community and my colleagues from across the region who have reached out in support for me and my family during this difficult time.

“I look forward to the next stage of my working life, and hope that I will again have the opportunity to serve the community in some capacity.”

Read Staff vote no confidence in 5 councillors who ‘conspired’ to sack GM and Why did council sack the GM? What happened at the council meeting?

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