Wallsend state MP Sonia Hornery is calling for an independent investigation into allegations surrounding City of Newcastle (CN) CEO Jeremy Bath.
Claims came to light at the weekend that the council’s chief executive officer had strong – and worrying – links with a local media organisation’s notorious letter writer Scott Neylon, aka Scott Neylan.
The report drew attention to several inconsistencies, as well as the author’s political attacks on elected MPs and community members in the area.
It is understood the Minister for Local Government Ron Hoenig has now directed Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes to look into the situation.
“All elected representatives come in for public criticism, that’s part of the job,” Ms Hornery said.
“But, as someone who has been repeatedly targeted for attack in letters written in Mr Neylon’s name, whoever he may be, I am especially troubled.
“To be honest, I’m deeply concerned.
“There are serious questions to answer.”
Ms Hornery, who has the backing of fellow political colleagues – Newcastle MPs Sharon Claydon and Tim Crakanthorp, welcomed Mr Hoenig’s intervention.
However, she feels any investigation must be conducted by an unbiased entity, at arm’s length of any CN connection, including staff, councillors or stakeholders with close associations with council.
“If City of Newcastle is being appointed the investigator, it must not be a case of the fox being put in charge of the chicken coop,” Ms Hornery said.
“It is of the utmost importance that CN appoints someone independently.
“And, the terms of reference of the investigation must be published to ensure due process and transparency.
“Surely, given the trust they have placed in Mr Bath, the Lord Mayor and Deputy Lord Mayor Declan Clausen should welcome the opportunity to clear this up.
“In fact, Mr Bath is a close associate of Cr Clausen, too… they both worked together at Hunter Water.
“So, for the interests of democracy, and to prevent further erosion of confidence in this council, Cr Nelmes must appoint an independent investigator to address this matter.
“Anything less would be a betrayal of trust that the voters and ratepayers of Newcastle placed in her.”
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