Suspended Liberal Councillor Chris Burke said Terrigal MP, Adam Crouch, made things political in the Council Chambers by constantly berating the “Greens and Labor” on Central Coast Council matters.
Burke added his voice to the criticisms made by other Liberal councillors about the State Government’s involvement in Central Coast Council.
He was questioned by Commissioner Roslyn McCulloch on Monday, October 11, when he said his submission was for her eyes only.
Commissioner McCulloch explained GIPA requests had already made the submissions public.
Burke said in his submission that he thought a reduction in Councillors would be better.
“The problem with our Council was the inexperience of 10 of the 15 Councillors who had been elected for the first time that term,” he said.
He explained he was a Liberal Councillor and a member of the Liberal Party for 20 years.
“In the two previous terms with Gosford Council, the nine councillors would put party politics aside and do the best for the community,” he said.
“In the Central Coast Council, Adam Crouch constantly berated Greens and Labor on Council matters and made it political.
“Labor and Greens would then make it political and vote it down.”
On the financial crisis he said the first time Councillors knew about Central Coast Council’s financial position was October 2020, with an approximate deficit of $28M.
“The next week, it was reported to be $80M then $120M approximately in deficit.
“At the end of October, crisis meetings were held.
“These were extraordinary meetings and confidential to prevent Councillors from leaking particulars to the press, eg. Greg Best,” Burke said.
Last week’s hearings included evidence from suspended Liberal Councillor, Jilly Pilon, and former Councillors, Troy Marquart and Rebecca Gale, who resigned days before the Minister for Local Government, Shelley Hancock, suspended the Council and appointed an Administrator.
Pilon said she didn’t think the State Government had put in place systems and structures to support the merger and she thought it was not fair that the State Government walked away from the merger in 2017 leaving the new Councillors with no permanent CEO or CFO in place.
Gale bookended that by saying the Councillors had no permanent CEO or CFO in place at the height of the financial crisis in 2020.
Marquart said no-one contacted him, not the State Government’s Office of Local Government, not the Liberal Party, after he and the others had blown the whistle in letters and he and Gale resigned.
He said he was disgusted in how he had been treated.
Pilon was critical of there being no financial handover at the start of the Councillors’ term.
She said they were not aware of the financial situation.
She said in future, Councillors needed to be briefed on investment reports and the CFO needed to make a public statement on them that is on the website so the public would know what was going on.
She apologised for not picking up the change in the investment reports from October 2019.
Burke said the gang of eight (Labor and two green independents) made every decision for the Council for three years and the other seven councillors, including four Liberals were virtually tokens.
“If we put up any motion, we were voted down,” he said.
An alternative motion was put forward by Labor and greens and approved.
“First example: Council was given a grant by the State Government for $4.2M for the Winney Bay walkway.
“This grant sourced by Adam Crouch and was two years in the making.
“The gang of eight ripped up the cheque and sent it back to the State Government.
“The next example: The Wallarah 2 mine was approved by the State Government in my Ward of Wyong, which has the highest unemployment rate in the state and the highest youth unemployment.
“Wallarah 2 was going to provide jobs.
“Central Coast Council gave $200,000 of ratepayer’s money for the fighting fund against the mine.
“When questioned in Council how the funds would be spent, the money had already been spent on legal costs fighting the State Government.
“This motion was put up by Labor and greens, and approved by the gang of eight,” he said.