The Council of Ku-ring-gai fired John McKee. He was reinstated the next day

“Some councilors have been swayed by a local MP who I think still harbors a grudge over the failed merger of the Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby councils and the housing strategy and has made many systematic attempts to gain control of the councils and councillors to obtain file,” he said.

Six councilors voted in closed session to fire McKee, authorize the mayor to offer 38 weeks’ pay as notice, and appoint council corporate director David Marshall as general manager, effective immediately.

The council decision offered no explanation for McKee’s dismissal, but said he “should be thanked for his years of service”.

Ku-ring-gai independent councilor Greg Taylor voted to fire McKee “in part to encourage progressive change,” but said he didn’t think the council was dysfunctional.

“I feel like there’s been a culture shift within the organization,” he said. “Councillors and voters will likely be able to exercise their responsibilities more effectively [will] be better represented.”

Former Mayor Jennifer Anderson criticized the attempt to fire McKee, whom she described as “a well-respected and well-liked leader of his staff.”

“This firing appears to be a desperate act to find a scapegoat for an elected council that has been struggling to make something meaningful happen since 2021,” she said on social media.

Anderson also raised concerns about fiscal mismanagement, saying councilors plan to raise interest rates to “solve the financial problems that the councilors themselves created.”

The City Council has been embroiled in controversy over plans to build a grandstand at a municipal sports facility, the installation of artificial turf on playing fields and the proposed sale of a bowling club.

Wahroonga Liberal MP and former minister Alister Henskens called the council “dysfunctional” in a speech to parliament in 2021, highlighting what he described as “poor decision-making”, including a controversial housing strategy that he said was more than had cost $2 million, but was turned down by city councillors.

“I have had long-standing concerns about Ku-ring-gai Council’s efficient delivery of services and the value for money our community is getting for community tariffs,” he said.

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The New South Wales government was poised to step into City Council in 2021 after half of its councilors repeatedly refused to show up for meetings after then-mayor Cedric Spencer tried to review the chief executive’s performance.

McKee banned Spencer from speaking to or calling council officials after alleged threats, behavior Spencer denied.

The New South Wales government abandoned a forced merger between Ku-ring-gai and Hornsby Shire councils in 2017 after a court found that the Ku-ring-gai government had denied procedural justice.

Henskens said there was never a personal conflict between him and McKee over the matter.

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Henskens said he didn’t think the council was dysfunctional as it had come to a “clear decision” supported by six out of 10 council members.

“The hiring and firing of the director-general of the council is entirely within the power of the elected councillors,” he said. “I have no role as a member of the Wahroonga State in this matter.”

A spokeswoman for Local Government Minister Ron Hoenig said councilors have the power to make decisions, including the right to make leadership changes.

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Justin Scaccy

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