The last Mayor of Wyong, Doug Eaton, was lined up to cross examine the first Mayor of Central Coast, Jane Smith, when the first day of hearings of the Public Inquiry into Central Coast Council unfolded on Monday, September 27.
Eaton requested leave on behalf of his client to cross-examine Smith, about the recruitment and performance of Gary Murphy who became Chief Executive Officer of Council in June 2018.
Eaton said that as Smith was the Mayor at the time, he thought she was uniquely qualified to give evidence.
Smith was the Coast’s first mayor but had become Deputy Mayor by the time the Councillors were suspended in October 2020.
The Commissioner, Roslyn McCulloch, said since this was an administrative inquiry, there were no parties contesting a matter but she would defer Eaton’s application until she had heard Smith’s evidence.
“I’m not presently minded to allow cross-examination. You would have to persuade me that it would be of benefit to the inquiry to have Ms Smith cross-examined,” she said in the afternoon of the first day of the Inquiry.
“You can stay and listen and then we will hear from you once she has concluded her evidence.”
She adjourned until later in the day but the technical difficulties were still unsolved.
She then asked both Eaton and Smtih’s legal representatives, only named as Mr Williams, if they could return with their clients on Tuesday at 9am to resume.
“Madam Commissioner, with respect, if you are not going to allow us to cross-examine, there is no point in me attending and causing my client to expend further money on a futile endeavour,” Eaton said.
The commissioner replied: “I haven’t made a final decision. I invited you to stay until Ms Smith’s evidence was concluded.”
Earlier, the hearings had started with an address from the Commissioner and the first witness, suspended Mayor Lisa Matthews, was questioned but the livestream was not working.
A transcript of that questioning is on the Office of Local Government website.
The inquiry is tasked with discovering if the Councillors met their obligations under the Local Government Act or whether their decisions since 2017 contributed to the financial position which the Council now finds itself in.