AUDIO, POLL: Council tensions boil over

NEWCASTLE lord mayor Jeff McCloy said ongoing frustration with political opponents prompted a voicemail blast  which accused a fellow councillor of acting like a ‘‘petty little schoolgirl’’.

The message, left for Cr Jason Dunn last week and obtained by the Newcastle Herald,  exposed a  divided council chamber less than two months into its new term.

Cr Dunn has since lodged a code-of-conduct complaint.

He said in an email to councillors yesterday that the call was ‘‘threatening, intimidating and completely inappropriate’’.

Responding to questions  about the voicemail, Cr McCloy released a  statement last night that pointed the finger at opponents on the politically divided council.

“In the two months since winning office, it is clear to me there are councillors who are operating with a self-serving and petty political agenda, which, if allowed to go unchecked, will lead to the continued demise of our city,” the mayor  said.

His voicemail message to Cr Dunn was left after the latter had twice questioned general manager Phil Pearce about the authority of Josh Hodges, the former Port Stephens councillor.

Mr Hodges had been working as the mayor’s chief of staff, though he was not yet employed in any official capacity by the council.

‘‘I’ve just seen with your note to Phil Pearce, you’ve had a second go at me now over something so petty I just can’t believe,’’ Cr McCloy said in the message.

‘‘You want to behave like a petty little schoolgirl, I’ll treat you like one. And I’m just about sick of it. Now I won’t miss you. So you keep it up Jason, and you’ll get what you deserve. I won’t talk to you about it again.’’

Cr Dunn emailed councillors yesterday morning with a copy of the recording and the details of his code-of-conduct complaint.

‘‘While I was not intending to circulate or discuss the message with you, it has come to my attention that the lord mayor has spoken to one or more councillors about my complaint,’’ he wrote.

‘‘As a result, and in the interests of fairness, I feel you should know exactly what was said.’’

When contacted by the Herald about the voicemail, Cr Dunn said the mayor should set a better example for the city.

‘‘Regardless of the issues involved, intimidating or threatening behaviour is totally and utterly unacceptable in any workplace,’’ he said.

Cr McCloy said he left the message out of frustration, having already tried to contact Cr Dunn several times and ‘‘because the council has enough problems working together without that sort of pettiness’’.

‘‘My time is being bogged down with entry to swimming pools when we’ve got a $20million deficit,’’ he said.

In his statement yesterday, the mayor said councillors must focus on the big picture.

“I didn’t stand for lord mayor for political glory, I stood to revitalise our city and its suburbs and for fiscal responsibility,’’ Cr McCloy said.

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