Council may fight sacking



THE NSW Government may face a lengthy legal battle over any moves to sack Tweed Shire Council in the wake of the recent public inquiry.

Majority councillors last night took the first step in a legal campaign which could go to the Supreme Court.

The move followed an investigation by their own lawyer Tony Smith into the way the public inquiry ? which could lead to their sacking ? was run.

It concluded:

l? The Council was denied natural justice and procedural fairness;

l?There were actual examples of bias against the council;

l?The procedure has set a dangerous precedent and has serious consequences for democratic processes.

After sometimes acrimonious debate, the six majority councillors voted to call in a senior barrister to draw up a defence against any move by the government to sack them.

But that advice alone could cost about $10,000 - on top a legal bill already incurred and the purchase of transcripts of the public inquiry for about $45,000.

The price was staunchly defended by Cr John Murray who said: "This is a fight about democracy. You don't back away from a fight when it's right."

But Cr Max Boyd argued: "You are taking on a fight with the state government. You can't win it".

Cr Boyd said Mr Smith had "flagged" the fight should go to the Supreme Court and warned ratepayers would pick up the tab.

Mr Smith's investigation slammed the public inquiry for allowing "leading and loaded questions", "general bias against speakers in favour of the council", witnesses who lacked qualifications and the failure to let the council respond to allegations.

Mr Smith particularly criticised the government for calling a further internal inquiry into the council's planning practices before the council could respond to allegations raised in the public inquiry.

"I'm simply outraged anything like this could occur," he told councillors last night.

"I don't think you should just sit there and take it," he added. "Council should seek higher advice".



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