Council controversy erupts

The 11 new Wyndham councillors. Photo: Supplied 220826_01

By Alesha Capone

Controversy has erupted within the new Wyndham council, with one councillor accusing his colleagues of dictatorship-like behaviour and calling for an external investigation.

Councillors were last week due to confirm Cr Josh Gilligan as Wyndham’s delegate to the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV).

However, six of the 11 councillors voted to name Cr Sahana Ramesh as the delegate instead.

Cr Gilligan was elected as the MAV’s interim president last month when the serving president retried. The MAV board will elect a new president on March 5.

An alternative proposal by Cr Mia Shaw, which would have seen Cr Ramesh become MAV delegate if Cr Gilligan did not retain the MAV presidency after March 5, was defeated.

Cr Gilligan said the Wyndham councillors who voted against him becoming the MAV delegate were using the opportunity “to exact political revenge”.

He described the behaviour as similar to what is “is seen in dictatorships”.

“Taking that away tonight is the most egregious breach of trust and teamwork that anyone would ever have seen in a council, except for examples of where councils have ultimately led to their own demise,” Cr Gilligan said.

After the council meeting, Cr Gilligan issued a statement which said the council was “deeply divided with the personal agendas of newly elected councillors triumphing over decisions that are in the best interests of the community”.

He said the councillors’ conduct also “speaks to an emerging toxic culture within the council that must be externally investigated”.

Cr Heather Marcus said that Cr Gilligan, who has served on the MAV board for four years, had represented the council in “a brilliant, outstanding way”.

Cr Marcus said the six councillors who voted for Cr Ramesh, instead of Cr Gilligan, were engaging in “bloc voting”.

She said Wyndham “will be the laughing stock of all the councils in the western suburbs” for not appointing Cr Gilligan to the MAV, given his experience in the role.

“I just feel really sad that we’ve got to this situation and I can see a monitor coming in and probably we will get sacked over this type of behaviour,” she said.

However, Cr Jasmine Hill and Cr Susan McIntyre said they both did “due diligence” in deciding to vote for Cr Ramesh.

“It may look like people are voting in blocs, but I can assure our community we are making careful and respectful decisions individually,” Cr Hill said.

Former councillor Intaj Khan said last Tuesday’s meeting “makes the council look dysfunctional”.

“If this will continue like this, for the next four years, the council might end up in administration,” he said.