Why did council sack the GM? What happened at the council meeting?

Councillors Tom Cooper, James Murray, Maggie May, Rob Cullen and Kylie Thomas voted to sack the general manager. Photo: Contributed

Susanna Freymark

General manager Graham Kennett was dismissed – effective immediately – at the Kyogle Council monthly meeting yesterday, Monday, December 11.

No reason was given for the sacking nor for why it was so urgent. It was done in the last few minutes of the last meeting of the year.

Clearly, this was planned – Brett Kelly was already lined up to be the interim general manager, starting today and serving until the council elections in September.

IndyNR.com was at the council meeting.

The general manager’s employment contract was not on the agenda.

One of the last items of the meeting was Urgent Business Without Notice.

It was here mayor Kylie Webster put forward the motion.

She read out her motion – filled with reference to clauses 9.3a, 9.3b and 10a of the Local Government Act.

It was Ms Webster’s final sentence that revealed what this urgent business was about – “To consider the employment contract of Graham Kennett”.

As councillors Hayden Doolan and Danielle Mulholland called “point of order”, it became clear what was about to happen.

This was not a spontaneous motion. It was well thought out with a letter already written for Mr Kennett about his dismissal.

“I feel sick,” Mr Doolan said. “It is not right.”

No dissension allowed, Ms Webster said.

“If we’re considering the employment contract of the general manager, I need to know the urgency,” Ms Mulholland said.

Through the protestations, Ms Webster repeated – no dissension, you’re out of order, councillor.

Councillor Maggie May seconded Ms Webster’s motion to discuss the GM’s contract and she urged the mayor to go into confidential.

It was Ms May and Councillor Rob Cullen who called an extraordinary meeting in April in an attempt to sack Mr Kennett then. About 250 staff protested outside Kyogle Council Chambers and the mayor (Ms Webster was called Ms Thomas then) eventually apologised.

Ms May was booed by the crowd when she entered the chambers that day.

Yesterday though, no one knew what was coming.

Ms Webster asked the public gallery if anyone “wanted to make representation” before the council discussed the matter behind closed doors.

Simon Dejoux stood up and said the matter was “inappropriate”.

Robin Harley asked: “What is the concern and what is the urgency?”

Ms Webster repeated her claim that as the chair she could deem the matter urgent. She did not answer the question.

Ms May again urged her to “move to confidential”.

The three members of the public and Councillor John Burley left the chambers and waited outside. Mr Burley was not allowed to be present because Mr Kennett is his son-in-law.

The only media present at the meeting, IndyNR also had to exit for the closed session.

A short time later, Mr Doolan, Ms Mulholland and Councillor Janet Wilson also left the chambers. They walked out when the vote to dismiss Mr Kennett went ahead.

Councillors Tom Cooper, James Murray, Rob Cullen, Ms May and Ms Thomas voted to sack the GM.

The meeting was over. Mr Kennett was out of a job. The councillors opposing the sacking were furious.

Ms Mulholland said to Ms Webster, it was a “disgusting motion” and there was evidence of collusion.

She rushed off to check on Mr Kennett’s welfare – he was in his office.

There were shouts between councillors and the mayor about the lack of professionalism.

No one would say why the GM was sacked.

IndyNR.com directly asked Ms Webster why he had been sacked. She declined to answer and said they did not have to give a reason as he was sacked immediately and would be given 38 weeks pay.

The union says that comes to $330,000.

The mayor released this statement:

Kyogle Council has announced the appointment of Brett Kelly as general manager effective from December 12. (today). Brett brings extensive experience in leadership and successfully managing large complex organisations over the past 25 years. Brett’s most recent role was that of CEO for peak industry body AMIA (Australian Mango Industry Association) and prior to that was the CEO for Australia’s largest farmer owned berry producer Oz Group Co-operative, as well as earlier spending nearly ten years as the CEO for Norco Co-operative. We welcome Brett on board and look forward to working together.

You can listen to the podcast of the council meeting here.

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