A controversial mayoral minute saw fellow party members divided, and a frustrated mayor Loretta Baker declared the “council has fallen to the lowest point”.
It all started with a minute putting forward the nomination of former mayor Peter Blackmore as a Freeman of the City of Maitland, and calling for council to deliver the award.
The prestigious award is the highest honour that a city can bestow on a citizen, and Cr Baker dedicated her minute to sharing the achievements of Mr Blackmore.
But Penfold Independent councillor Peter Garnham stopped the mayoral minute in its tracks, and pushed for an amended motion for a policy and committee for the award process.
Speaking on the amendment, Cr Garnham said he believed the current process for awarding the prestigious title was “wrong” and wasn’t fair.
“I’m not speaking about a person, I’m speaking about a process,” he said.
“I believe there needs to be a process. It needs to be vetted by a committee. There is no nomination form … apart from going to the mayor or general manager.”
In a seven to six vote, the amendment quashed the mayoral minute.
Supporting the amendment was the Penfold Independent block, Liberal councillors Mitchell Griffin and Sally Halliday and Labor councillor Henry Meskauskas.
Cr Meskauskas criticised the process and said it pitted councillors against each other.
“It is a disgrace to this council … and the former mayor,” he said.
Councillors weighed in on the motion and amendment including Cr Halliday who cited the importance of a “transparent process”.
But Labor councillor Ben Whiting said the debate was ‘belittling’ the contribution that the former mayor had made to the city.
In a final address on the matter, Cr Baker said she was “bitterly disappointed” by councillor’s decision.
“This is personal. I am bitterly disappointed but not surprised,” she said.