FOKE Thanks Mr McKee

FOKE President Kathy Cowley wrote to Jehn McKee, on 14 November 2023, thanking him for his service as Ku-ring-gai Council General Manager from 2006-2023.

Read FOKEs letter below:

Dear Mr McKee

FOKE wishes to thank you for your many years of service to Ku-ring-gai Council as its General Manager since 2006 and as its Director of Finance (2001-2006) since you first started working for Ku-ring-gai Council in 1998.  An enormous and respected legacy that is greatly appreciated.

We thank you for your leadership that has been important in protecting so much of Ku-ring-gai’s natural, built and cultural heritage from overdevelopment, forced amalgamation and higher density rezonings.

We greatly appreciate your determination to successfully oppose the NSW Government’s forced amalgamation agenda in 2017 and your record of sound financial management.

We recognise your significant achievements including your commitment to:

  • Heritage protection for Ku-ring-gai through the Gazettal of Heritage Conservation Areas across Ku-ring-gai Town Centres.
  • Environmental stewardship for Ku-ring-gai through an IPART approved Environmental Levy that provided $4 million a year for a range of environmental projects in 2019.
  • Establishing an award-winning open space acquisition strategy that has led to the creation of 15 new parks and playgrounds from 2006-2020.
  • Local government excellence as recognised by Ku-ring-gai Council winning the A R Bluett Award for best performing metropolitan council in NSW in 2014.
  • Ensuring Ku-ring-gai Council was one of the first councils to respond to the Greater Sydney Commission’s requirement for new local environmental plans with the adoption of Ku-ring-gai’s Local Strategic Planning Statement in 2020.
  • Implementation of a development contributions scheme to provide new community facilities in areas of high density development.
  • Sound financial management through a combination of rigorous debt reduction, increasing income, land purchases and strategic long-term planning.
  • Improving budget outcomes through the integration of Ku-ring-gai Council’s asset management, financial and operational planning and associated reporting.
  • Rate restructuring that provided $36 million for infrastructure renewal over 20 years.
  •  ‘Activate Ku-ring-gai Civic Redevelopment Program’ to revitalise Ku-ring-gai’s main centres.
  • $29 million multi-purpose recreational area for netball, soccer and golf for Ku-ring-gai residents.
  • $20 million fitness and aquatic centre at West Pymble.
  • Refurbishment and modernisation of Ku-ring-gai’s central library at Gordon.
  • Building a new Council depot at Pymble as well providing new headquarters for SES volunteer emergency services.
  • Provision of the large public space and underground parking for 130 cars at Lindfield.

We will not forget how you steered Ku-ring-gai Council through difficult State Government challenges.  Your successful management of Council’s financial performance ensured Ku-ring-gai Council was one of the only councils in NSW to meet the State Government’s financial criteria under the ‘Fit for the Future’ sustainability program. Nevertheless, the NSW State Government proposed merging Ku-ring-gai Council and Hornsby Council. When Ku-ring-gai Council resolved to oppose this merger, you led a successful legal challenge to the merger process resulting in a win in the Court of Appeal that maintained Ku-ring-gai’s independence.  

Thank you again for the huge difference you have made in leading, protecting and retaining so much of Ku-ring-gai’s natural, built and cultural heritage and in the strategic planning and delivery of new infrastructure for Ku-ring-gai.

We wish you the very best in your new endeavours ahead.

Yours sincerely

Kathy Cowley


PHOTO CAPTION: John McKee talking about how engaged his Senior Management team on a collective leadership journey for the Australian Applied Management Colloquium, 2014

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

For Ku-ring-gai’s sake reinstate GM


Tuesday 12 September 2023

“The decision tonight to reinstate the General Manger Mr McKee is a critical one for residents and Ku-ring-gai. One we’re very unlikely to forget!

We are shocked and dismayed that Mr McKee has been sacked without any warning or due cause.  We believe the sacking is not only, opportunist, unfair and against the principals of due diligence and good governance by an elected body of council.  

You have provided no credible or rational reason to sack the GM.  By sacking him at the last meeting you usurped the council’s meeting agenda which was to discuss the General Managers performance for  which we believe was measured as more than satisfactory.

So where are the reasons for this sudden and unexplained action?

  1. There has been no evidence or allegations of maleficence.
  2. No suggestion of scandal or misconduct.
  3. No evidence of lack of capacity or ability to carry out his work.
  4. and no calling from the general community of Ku-ring-gai to sack him.

Your sudden and drastic decision can only be seen for what it is, a tawdry political hatchet job, made worse by the frantic jockeying to be the next Mayor next week. Backed and supported by a local MP, who has no role or no right to interfere in Ku-ring-gai Council decision making.

Further the group of six has used an ideological argument that “it’s time for a change” which is not a valid argument to sack a loyal General Manager and with no justification bought forward to support it. His performance has been assessed by many councillors and past mayors, three of whom have written a public letter of support for Mr McKee, and reinforcing the fact that the GM has had a more than satisfactory performance not just for the last two years but for the last 17 years.

The sacking of Mr McKee is a high-risk strategy with the potential to destabilise the senior staff, disrupt the day-to-day management of the council, and will undoubtedly cause reputational damage to council  and councillors.

We fear destabilisation of senior staff could lead to the intervention of the State Government – such as an appointment of an Administrator.

Residents need to rely on a stable Council with experienced staff that can lead Ku-ring-gai through the next tranche of massive rezonings for which we are warned are on the agenda by the Labor Government.   Mr McKee has a consistent track record in leading this council through major challenges.

Councillors have been elected to consult widely with their constituents and to make decisions in the public interest not political self-interests.   The community’s reaction to this decision should give cause for the six councillors to look at their own actions as to whether they have put in a satisfactory performance.  The community will have the opportunity to assess that at the ballot box.

For Ku-ring-gai’s sake we urge you to right a wrong and reinstate Mr McKee.”

FOKE Calls on Councillors to KEEP Mr McKEE

FOKE is deeply disturbed that six Ku-ring-gai Councillors – Sam Ngai, Alec Taylor, Greg Taylor, Barbara Ward, Simon Lennon and Christine Kay – recently voted to terminate Mr John McKee, as General Manager of Ku-ring-gai Council. 

In an effort to retain John McKee as General Manager, three Councillors – Martin Smith, Kim Wheatley and Jeff Pettett – put forward a rescission motion. 

FOKE strongly supports this rescission motion to retain McKee as Ku-ring-gai Council’s General Manager.

This rescission motion will be determined at an Extraordinary General Meeting of Council this Tuesday 12 September at the Gordon Council Chambers, commencing 6.00 pm

Speakers need to arrive 10 minutes before the start of the Public Forum to ensure they are on the list to speak.

It will be important for councillors to receive letters or from residents in addressing the Public Forum next Tuesday evening.

Speakers for the Public Forum need to be registered at the very latest with council by 5pm, Monday 11 September by calling 9424 0000, or by on line registration at

This Extraordinary General Meeting to determine the Rescission Motion to reinstate the General Manager will be held on the same night right after the Public Forum see

Please write to councillors at  calling to support the Rescission Motion to reinstate Mr McKee as General Manager.

OR write individually to:;;;;;;;

FOKE has written to all councillors questioning the removal of the General Manager John McKee, at a time when the Council is being targetted by the Labor Government for more urban densification. 

FOKE has also expressed the view that the sudden and unexplained sacking of John McKee will lead to the destabilisation of senior staff and experienced management as well as bring reputational damage to the whole of Council.    

FOKE fears this destabilisation could lead to the intervention of the State Government.

What may appear a straightforward decision has the potential to bring many unintended high-risk consequences into play – the loss of experienced staff, sacking of all Councillors, imposition of an Administrator, loss of planning powers and control of certain development sites.

The Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Post has published an article in support of the General Manager Mr McKee quoting the views of three former Mayors Jennifer Anderson, Elaine Malicki and Cheryl Szatow who collectively have 50 years of local government experience between them and are very concerned by the sudden termination of Mr McKee.