Mayor slams ‘cheap shot’

THE suspension of two of Newcastle’s top bureaucrats has sparked a war of words between lord mayor Jeff McCloy and NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson.

Standing on the steps of Newcastle City Hall  yesterday, Mr John Robertson said he was ‘‘unsurprised’’ when he heard the council had suspended  art gallery director Ron Ramsey and Future City director Judy Jaeger.

The council says it is investigating ‘‘certain matters’’.

Neither the Newcastle Herald, Newcastle City Council nor Mr Robertson suggest the two managers have done anything wrong.

‘‘I’ve been watching this very closely because it’s been clear from the outset that when Jeff McCloy became mayor he had an issue with the art gallery,’’ Mr Robertson said.

‘‘I’m unsurprised that matters have led to where they are today.’’

Cr McCloy struck back, saying the idea he had a vendetta against the art gallery was ‘‘simply not true’’ but he had a responsibility to handle ratepayers’ money carefully.

‘‘Mr Robertson should really try to look after his own affairs,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s just a cheap shot.’’

Labor councillors who demanded a confidential briefing on the reasons behind the suspensions said they were still awaiting a response yesterday afternoon.

Nuatali Nelmes said it was the first time during her tenure as a councillor that elected representatives had been left in the dark on a senior staffing matter.

‘‘We have the powers to be involved in the appointment of these staff so if they are going to be suspended we should at least know why,’’ she said.

‘‘We as a council need to make sure these actions are warranted.’’

 Council general manager Ken Gouldthorp emailed councillors about the suspension this week, urging them to avoid discussing the matter.

‘‘Publicity or conjecture on this matter may interfere with the integrity of the investigation or impact on the reputations of the individuals,’’ Mr Gouldthorp wrote.

Mr Gouldthorp  said he would ‘‘provide appropriate information formally and in confidence to the full council’’ if required.

A Newcastle City Council spokeswoman would not comment on operational matters.

She confirmed Mr Gouldthorp had ‘‘taken a day off’’ yesterday. 

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