RELATIONS between the mayor of Port Stephens, Bruce MacKenzie, and central ward councillor Geoff Dingle deteriorated further on Tuesday night.
The perennial antagonists went at it over a proposal to prevent councillors from making direct contact with staff amid claims of bullying.
The council remains one of the few in the Hunter that doesn’t require councillors to lodge inquiries through the general manager’s office.
“It’s unacceptable for councillors to be be obnoxious toward staff when they’re so hopeful,” Cr Dingle said.
“But if it applies to councillors then maybe it should apply to to the mayor and we would have all this [contaminated soil] on the equestrian centre.”
Cr MacKenzie spoke in favour of Cr Ken Jordan’s motion.
“It would open your eyes to see some of the emails staff get from councillors,” Cr MacKenzie said.
“I would love for you to hear phone recordings – I have no doubt staff are harassed.”
At this point Cr Dingle interjected but Cr MacKenzie rolled on.
“You are the problem with this council, Cr Dingle, you harass the staff [with emails].”
Cr Peter Kafer called for a point of order but Cr MacKenzie continued.
“I’m a silly old man but you are the reason behind this [motion], Cr Dingle.”
To this, Cr Dingle gathered his items and left the chamber.
“You must be able to read between the lines, Mr mayor,” Cr Jordan said.
“When people in our community say that our mayor is a bully it is a load of rot.”
Cr Jordan said channeling all inquiries through the general manager Wayne Wallis would only create more work for the executive office.
“I’m happy for this motion to be defeated,” he said in closing.
“But I’ll be watching and if this [bullying] happens again, I’ll bring it back.”
Cr Peter Kafer and Cr John Nell also left the chamber prior to voting. A quorum remained and the motion was lost.