After a particularly raucous Council meeting on Wednesday around the sale of publicly-owned Excelsior Oval to a property developer, Councillor Ron Page says he has ‘zero confidence’ in Mayor Tom Kennedy.
The Mayor hit back, accusing Cllr Page of not declaring a pecuniary interest – a financial interest – because of Cllr Page’s bid to get 95 social housing units built on the same block of land that has now been sold by council to a private property developer who doesn’t plan any social housing, aside from some over-55s units.
Cllr Page’s plan was to potentially use state and federal grants to help make the social housing dream become a reality.
The row over the deal to sell council-owned Excelsior Oval erupted with the decision by a majority of councillors at the Wednesday meeting to sell to private property developer – Spencer Property Group – which plans a first stage build of 102 homes on the land.
Cllr Page was called out by some councillors during the council meeting for his alleged pecuniary interest in the site given he wanted to organise the social housing build.
Cllr Page vehemently denies any wrongdoing and says it was always his intention for the 95 dwelling social housing development to be a council project and not a personal one – in other words he says he would not have benefitted financially.
“When we gave the interview [to this newspaper], we were talking about council getting another Shorty O’Neill village built through council with help from the state and federal government,” Cllr Page said.
Of Mayor’s Kennedy’s allegations at the council meeting, Cllr Page said after the meeting, “it is all lies and misinformation. He twisted it all around and then accused me and attacked me.”
“I think the Mayor’s conduct at the meeting was reprehensible. He attacked me. He is always attack, attack, attack,” Cllr Page added. The councillor was Broken Hill’s Mayor from 1999 to 2007.
Mayor Kennedy told the Truth, “I made it quite clear during the meeting that I was uncomfortable with Cllr Page being involved in the process of the Excelsior Oval after he said in the media that he had a development plan that was much better than the existing plan.”
“Cllr Page made the statement that he and his team were looking for land for a development containing 95 units, it made me uncomfortable, I thought it was flying a little too close to the sun,” Mr Kennedy says.
“But when he came back and said the rug had been pulled from beneath him by the Council and identified Excelsior Oval as their preferred site, automatically that became a pecuniary interest,” claimed the Mayor.
“I felt I had no other option than to put it on the record to protect Council. I would have preferred if Ron had declared his interest himself, but he chose not to, which is disappointing,” Cllr Kennedy said.
Mr Kennedy told us he and Cllr Page had been colleagues in Council for over 20 years and after this tense period, it would eventually be back to business as usual.
“This isn’t the first time Cllr Page and I have clashed. It’ll be tense for a week or so, but after that I imagine things will be back to normal. It certainly won’t affect us from doing the right thing when we meet on Council business.”
For his part, Mr Page was blunt, telling the Truth, “After his behaviour last night, I have zero confidence in him as Mayor going forward.”