By ALLISON HORE
Following mayor Darcy Byrne’s referral of his own council to the auditor general over its handling of the Dawny refurbishment, a senior official in the Inner West Council has decided to call it quits.
In an email sent to council staff on Tuesday afternoon, acting general manager of the Inner West Council, Brian Barrett, announced he would be leaving the role earlier than intended following difficulties dealing with the mayor.
Mr. Barrett was appointed into the role on a temporary basis in October last year. He had planned to stay on until the end of April, when the council was able to find someone more permanent, however, he has now pulled his resignation forward to the 9th of April.
His decision to bow out of the role early comes after Darcy Byrne decided to refer council staff to the auditor general over the delay-plagued refurbishment of the Dawn Fraser baths in Balmain. Mr. Barrett said the move was an “enormous betrayal” to council staff.
“It will come as no surprise to all of you that the mayor’s unilateral decision to write to the Auditor-General in relation to the Dawn Fraser Baths project was for me an enormous betrayal of the executive and staff,” he said in an email.
Mr. Barrett was the General Manager of the Marrickville Council between 2013 and 16, before the council was forcibly amalgamated into the Inner West council.
Since amalgamation, the Inner West Council has seen a revolving door of management, with CEO Michael Deegan resigning last year following allegations of corruption and a rocky relationship with Mayor Byrne. Elizabeth Richardson stepped into the role of acting CEO, she is the fourth chief executive since the council amalgamated.
The delay to the reopening of the baths, initially planned for boxing day last year, has caused widespread backlash from the community. But earlier in March, Mayor Byrne wrote to NSW Auditor-General Margaret Crawford requesting she probe the council staff’s handling of the restoration works.
“While I am very proud to have fought for and delivered the full funding that has secured the future of our famous pool, the ongoing delays to the reopening, which the community was promised would take place last year, have been unacceptable,” Mr. Byrne said.
“This is simply not good enough and in the interests of transparency and probity I have referred the management of the project for independent investigation.”
Mr. Barrett is not the only one who saw the decision as a “betrayal” of council staff. Independent councillor John Stamolis said the move came as a surprise to other councillors who only found out about it in the media after the referral had been made. He said none of the internal review mechanisms had been used prior to the referral.
“At no stage has he brought council together, at no stage has he asked for an internal review, at no stage has he brought the general manager and project managers together with the council and councillors,” he told the Inner West Independent.