A tumultuous Inner West Council meeting led to council acknowledging the findings by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) that Labor Mayor Darcy Byrne was guilty of misconduct.
Greens Clr Louise Steer told the Independent, “it is a big step to do a motion like that against the Mayor and it would be a big step in any council.”
Greens Clr Kiat put forward the motion which passed 7 to 4 and means council notes the findings of NCAT in relation to the allegations brought against the Mayor relating to his conduct, and also notes that NCAT is still in the process of considering what penalty should apply, and that an independent conduct reviewer found Clr Byrne made a social media post in breach of code of conduct in that he made comments about another councillor which a reasonable person would consider humiliating.
Due to conflict of interest, Clr Byrne exited the meeting and Labor councillors Mckenna and Drury attempted to fight the motion by debating whether it was procedurally valid.
“I think Labor was afraid that everybody would end up voting for that motion, as in fact that is what happened, and they didn’t want to put on record the facts about the Mayor’s situation,” said Steer.
Labor Clr Drury said in the meeting the motion was meaningless and would be voted along party lines.
Independent Clr Stamolis told the Independent this is the first time ever that a motion such as this has been done in the Inner West, “it was a signal that there was alarm amongst councillors.”
“It was a long protracted ninety-minute debate where we were expressing concerns with the leadership of our council.”
Clr Stamolis said the motion was a culmination of various things over a long time, from general managers leaving, to Facebook wars, to some of the terminology that the mayor uses about councillors, “all of this is showing something is going wrong with the leadership and with the focus and the culture of our council, and generally that comes from the top.”
Greens councillors suggested the “thwart” term of council was due to an alliance between Labor, Liberal and the conservative Independent.
Clr Colin Hesse told the Independent that the alliance has fallen apart, but an alliance of that kind had been in operation since 2017.
Clr Steer said, “at the beginning of term, Labor did join forces with the Liberals and conservative Independent in order to control the mayoralty and the deputy mayorship and the people who have been appointed have been appointed as a result of that collaboration.”
Steer and Hesse said the alliance has been a disservice to Inner West residents who voted for equal numbers of Greens and Labor councillors, with 5 councillors each representing both parties.
“I think it’s disappointing to a lot of residents and I think it does bend council out of shape, I think it makes it a more combative place because there’s so much time spent on the politics […],” said Hesse.
“I think that is actually against what our residents want, I think people who vote for the Greens and Labor don’t have much between them […] philosophically speaking, Labor and Greens in the Inner West are not that different.”
Hesse said the alliance had worked together to deliver a tree policy which has seen a significant and serious loss of trees on private property over the last 12 months and to make sure that precinct committees that existed for 25-30 years in the former Leichhardt local government area weren’t reinstituted after the amalgamation.
Labor Clr Drury told the Independent, “the alliance is a political fiction devised by the Greens to explain their ineffectiveness. It seems to me that some Greens councillors have more in common and vote more often with Clr Julie Passas than I do.”
The upcoming September election is set to change the power dynamics with at least 7 new councillors out of 15.
Greens councillors Steer, Hesse, Kiat and Porteous are not running for re-election.
Clr Kiat said in the meeting the relationship between Liberal Clr Passas and Clr Byrne had broken down and the Mayor no longer has majority support.