No end in sight of rift between councillors Arnott and Palmer

Port Stephens councillor Giacomo Arnott and Mayor Ryan Palmer.
Port Stephens councillor Giacomo Arnott and Mayor Ryan Palmer.

There looks to be no end in sight of the rift between Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer and councillor Giacomo Arnott, following the council's decision to have Cr Arnott removed from the December 10 meeting for "disorderly conduct".

Weighing in on the expulsion this week alongside State MP Kate Washington was Shadow Minister for Local Government, Labor's Greg Warren, who has backed Cr Arnott's call on the mayor to apologise and correct the public record.

Mayor Palmer has hit back, demanding an apology from the Port Stephens Labor Party for "lying about what actually happened".

"I never called the police and Cr Arnott asked for them to be called. The threats and abuse Labor Party supporters and fake Facebook profiles have thrown at me and my family is disgusting," Cr Palmer said.

"While others and I are busy delivering for Port Stephens, all the Labor Party is interested in are political games."

In calling for an apology, Cr Arnott reminded the mayor that "we don't live in North Korea" and that "the leader doesn't get to interpret laws to suit themselves".

"Debates can be robust and mistakes can be made. I don't think the mayor purposefully broke the law, but clearly he made a mistake in an attempt to discredit me. The decent thing for him to do is correct the record and apologise so everyone can move on," he said.

Mr Warren said he did not want to see a situation in any local government area where the police are used to escort councillors off the premises.

"No mayor or councillor is above the law. I think Cr Arnott's request for an apology is entirely appropriate, and I call on mayor Palmer to do the decent thing, take it on the chin, and correct the record," he said.

Ms Washington said that "if the mayor doesn't like Cr Arnott, fine, but he doesn't have the right to expel someone he doesn't like and have the police walk him out. It's a complete misuse of his power".

A spokesperson for the Office of Local Government said that the Local Government Act provided for all councillors to participate in decision making on behalf of the communities that elect them.

"Meeting chairs should only use the power of expulsion as a last resort and in accordance with the prescribed rules."

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