Former Maitland Mayor Peter Blackmore said a vote by councillors to change the way they select a Freeman of the City was an insult to every leader presented with the honour and a final “flick of the bird” to him for supporting current Mayor Loretta Baker.
Mr Blackmore spoke candidly this week about the obvious division within Maitland City Council, Cr Peter Garnham’s eleventh hour move to block Mr Blackmore’s Freeman of the City nomination and how political point scoring is being put before the community’s interests.
He also made it abundantly clear that he probably would not have accepted the nomination because he was receiving an allowance in his role as mayor and he wasn’t in the job for the accolades.
At a meeting on Tuesday, Cr Baker said council had fallen to its lowest point after Team Penfold Independent, Peter Garnham, quashed her Mayoral Minute to nominate Mr Blackmore.
Cr Garnham said he believed the current process for awarding the title was “wrong” and unfair.
Former Maitland pharmacist and motor racing great Ken Tubman, historian Harry Boyle, Hunter Valley Training Company founder Milton Morris and philanthropist William Bowmore, are just four of the names gracing the Freeman of the City honour roll.
Mr Blackmore said the council’s move on Tuesday night was not only disrespectful but insulting to all those on the roll who have made significant contributions to the city.
Cr Philip Penfold and Cr Garnham were contacted for comment but did not respond.
“I was taken aback to think I was nominated. Yes I’m honoured but I’m doubtful I could accept. I wasn’t in the job for the accolades and I received an allowance - I’d say that would disqualify me from the start,” Mr Blackmore said.
“There are other people out there in the community more deserving of the honour.”
Mr Blackmore, who has been honoured with an Order of Australia, was disappointed when he heard what happened at the meeting and wished he had been there to defend himself. He wasn’t surprised to learn of the amendment.
“I know the players behind it and I felt sorry for the mayor. What a disgrace and how disrespectful was this to her,” he said. “Maitland people aren’t interested in this factional fighting. They just want the best value for their rates and what’s best for the city.”
He said council already has a policy on how nominations and voting should take place and that it has been legislated and must be dealt with in open council.
“We had an understanding with any media present to keep the nomination quiet until the official announcement,” he said. “As far as I can remember, every person nominated for the award received unanimous support.
“I’m extremely disappointed so see what has happened. I know this is a way of giving me the finger after speaking out in a previous story saying Cr Baker was doing a good job. I’d imagine Cr Garnham and Cr Penfold would have been seething.”
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