SINGLETON mayor Sue Moore has used her own casting vote to break a deadlocked no confidence motion in her by fellow councillors.
The move ended a session of more than two hours, which Cr Moore chaired on Monday night, that was one of the most explosive and distressing seen in the council chambers.
It included allegations of a private investigator spying on councillors as part of a suspected political smear campaign and a disturbing anonymous letter in the mailbox of Cr Ruth Rogers and her husband Alan.
Cr Fred Harvison said he viewed these matters, and the fact councillor emails were leaked to The Argus as “heinous” acts which he would refer to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Cr Rogers told The Argus after the meeting that she had asked the Federal Police to investigate the anonymous letter and declined to comment further.
Cr Alison Howlett confirmed that her husband, Max, had engaged a private investigator in February in relation to anonymous code of conduct complaints and plotting against her and Cr Paul Nichols.
Cr Howlett said she had told Cr Moore, general manager Lindy Hyam and assistant general manager Gary Thomson on March 5 of some things the investigator had found.
The genesis of Monday’s council cat fight can be traced back to decisions made by former general manager Scott Greensill, questions over the appointment of former assistant general manager Henry Wilson, anonymous and unfounded conduct complaints against councillors Howlett and Nichols plus a still mounting bill over the debacle that is understood to already exceed $1million.
Cr Harvison said the private investigator was noticed around “social” gatherings involving himself, councillors Moore, Rogers, Lee Gallagher and Godfrey Adamthwaite that occasionally included Henry Wilson, and other members of the public.
Cr Tony McNamara accused Cr Moore of storming out of her office when he attempted to speak to her about attacks she made against him in her Argus mayoral column.
Cr Moore said she walked out on him as she feared for her safety.
Several councillors were in tears during Monday’s council meeting, including Cr Maxine Smith who broke down, saying she struggled to come to terms with what councillors were doing.
She left the chambers, returned later for the no confidence vote and then left again.
Mrs Hyam did not attend the meeting, she is understood to have gone home sick that afternoon.
The meeting was peppered with interjections and at one stage Cr Harvison told Cr McNamara to “pull your head in”.
The meeting began in front of a packed gallery of about 40 people, but after more than an hour of heated exchanges several left, including one man who expressed his disgust by yelling: “This is bullshit.”
Cr Moore’s daughter Lee-Ann was visibly upset during proceedings and walked out raising her voice at Cr Howlett.
Cr Howlett responded with a comment about professionalism and Cr Moore countered by demanding an apology.
The no confidence motion was lodged by Cr Howlett over Cr Moore’s June 26 column that was written after a council decision earlier in the week to spend up to $500,000 to replace an old, dangerous causeway on Long Gully Road, The Retreat, and tarseal the road and its dead end offshoot Mountain View Road.
In a linked motion this week, Cr Howlett successfully moved that, in future, media privilege extended to the office of mayor reflect council views not personal opinion, made misuse of media privilege a code of conduct breach and prevented the mayor’s media privilege being used in the month before local government elections.
The Long Gully Road decision was supported by 10 councillors and opposed by Cr Moore.
In her Argus column, Cr Moore set out why she believed the decision was wrong and unfair to other parts of the shire and ended by saying ratepayers should be furious.
Cr Howlett told Monday’s meeting she brought the no confidence motion forward reluctantly but felt Cr Moore’s column was “highly critical” of a council decision, attacked fellow councillors and showed them a lack of respect.
Cr Moore’s handling of the Long Gully issue had also demonstrated a lack of leadership and divided councillors and the community, Cr Howlett said.
Cr Moore said her column aimed to correct inaccuracies, spoken in the council chambers and printed in The Argus over the Long Gully matter.
Councillors had approved the council’s road matrix, money available for the Long Gully project was not as much as some councillors had said and she did not attack Cr McNamara, other councillors or ratepayers, Cr Moore said.
Cr Moore said she believed people needed to be told the truth and she had been thanked by many for explaining the situation.