Outrage Over GM’s Sacking

Ku-ring-gai Councillors elected Clr Sam Ngai as the new Ku-ring-gai Mayor and Clr Christine Kay as the new Deputy Mayor at its meeting on Tuesday 19 September, 2023.

Following this mayoral election, an extraordinary meeting was held where an amended Rescission Motion by Councillors Pettett, Smith and Wheatley, dated 15 August, 2023 was moved.  This motion hoped to reinstate Mr John McKee as Ku-ring-gai’s General Manager.  However, the motion was defeated six votes to four. 

Those voting against the Rescission Motion were Councillors Cedric Spencer, Sam Ngai, Alec Taylor, Barbara Ward, Greg Taylor and Christine Kay.  Their vote effectively terminated Mr McKee’s position as General Manager. 

Clr Martin Smith before moving the Rescission Motion, tabled a document to all councillors, showing that Clr Smith had raised his concerns with the Council’s Audit and Risk Committee, outlining the following issues – reputational damage, no due process in the termination of the GM, no tabled performance review due to Councillor Kay not supplying her markings after repeated requests, litigation, and political jousting for the mayoral position.  Clr Smith stated that the NSW State MP was using unacceptable interference with the elected Ku-ring-gai Council Liberal member councillors and two easily influenced Independents.

Clr Kim Wheatley’s speech seconded the Rescission motion defending the General Manager stating that “Mr McKee in his 17 year tenure as GM of Ku-ring-gai Council has always received satisfactory or better in relation to his performance reviews.”  She called on councillors to “act lawfully and honestly and exercise a reasonable degree of care and diligence”.  

Clr Simon Lennon who had initially supported the termination of the General Manager’s contract at the Ordinary Meeting of Council on 15 August, 2023, reversed his decision and joined Councillors Martin Smith, Kim Wheatley and Jeff Pettett in voting for the Rescission Motion to reinstate the General Manager. 

Clr Lennon expressed regret that he had made a mistake in voting for the original motion to terminate Mr McKee as General Manager in August.  During the debate he attempted to move a compromise motion where Councillors would have further time to renegotiate the General Manager’s KPIs in consultation with Mr McKee.

Clr Spencer’s vote and speech against the Rescission motion revealed his longstanding desire to terminate the GM since he first attempted to do so two years ago when mayor.  His recent claims that he did not support the GM’s termination were exposed as untrue.   

Over the last 30 years, community groups have observed many alarming decisions voted on by councillors, but this decision to terminate Mr McKee as General Manager has utterly shocked the community with its lack of procedural fairness and potential political interference by a local state MP who congratulated the councillors sacking the General Manager. This decision now risks ongoing instability of Ku-ring-gai Council’s management. 

Among the six councillors who voted against the rescission motion only Clr Ngai and Clr Spencer spoke against it. Neither one provided any substantial justification for Mr McKee’s sacking.  Councillors Alec Taylor, Barbara Ward, Greg Taylor and Christine Kay remained silent as to why they were so aggrieved with Mr McKee. 

Despite warnings about the reputational’ legal risks and potential costs of an unfair dismissal from the Department of Local Government, Ku-ring-gai Council’s Audit, Risk and Improvement Committee, former Mayors, former Councillors, community leaders and members of the community – four Liberal member councillors and two Independent councillors ignored this advice.

The newly elected mayor, Clr Sam Ngai appeared unaware of his responsibility as the new mayor to advance community cohesion.  Instead, he dismissed concerns raised at a recent Public Forum by former Ku-ring-gai mayors, former councillors and esteemed community leaders who spoke strongly in support of the General Manager and against the actions of those terminating his contract.

Soon after the rescission motion’s defeat, the newly elected Mayor Clr Sam Ngai moved a callous and calculating motion to start the process in appointing a new General Manager.  This indicated that Clr Ngai had played a lead role in Mr McKee’s dismissal.

The newly elected Deputy Mayor Christine Kay also voted to support the termination of Mr McKee.

Both Clr Sam Ngai and Christine Kay hold high positions in the NSW Liberal Party.

Clr Sam Ngai, branch Treasurer, is involved in organised the Davidson Liberals Annual Davidson Business Breakfast.  No doubt he will be congratulated as the new Mayor of Ku-ring-gai at the upcoming event, on 21 September, 2023.

Clr Christine Kay is the Membership Secretary of the NSW Liberal Women’s Council.

FOKE expresses great regret that Ku-ring-gai Councillors Cedric Spencer, Sam Ngai, Alec Taylor, Barbara Ward, Greg Taylor and Christiane Kay have chosen to take a high-risk strategy of removing a well-respected and excellent GM with no justification.

FOKE fears that this will now lead to negative and long lasting impacts on Council stability. 

FOKE feels betrayal at the total disregard for the community. 

FOKE believes that the six Ku-ring-gai Councillors’ action seriously diminishes Ku-ring-gai’s democracy.

FOKE thanks Mr McKee for his years of public service to the Ku-ring-gai community and expresses its deep regret that personal grievances, self-interest and political machinations have led to his termination as General Manager of Ku-ring-gai Council.

Posted 21 September, 2023