Two absent Liberal councillors, a motion of dissent and a new deputy mayor picked after an earlier behind-the-scenes draw from a hat.
This is how Tuesday night's Maitland City Council meeting played out, highlighting the disdain between our elected representatives and a deep chasm between the city's four Liberal councillors.
The election of deputy mayor drew two candidates at the meeting - councillors Philip Penfold (IND) and Henry Meskauskas (ALP).
Liberal councillors Mitchell Griffin and Sally Halliday helped prop up Cr Penfold, to get him over the line as the city's new deputy mayor - the position Cr Halliday held in 2017 and Cr Griffin in 2018. Two other Liberal councillors Ben Mitchell and Kanchan Ranadive, were absent from the meeting.
The Mercury understands that after a Liberal Party caucus meeting the pair was bound to vote for Cr Penfold. The caucus vote was split and resulted in a draw from the hat - Cr Penfold's name selected first. The Mercury also understands that councillors Ranadive and Mitchell chose not to attend the meeting on election night to avoid having their vote for Cr Penfold placed on record.
Councillors Ranadive and Mitchell were contacted for comment - Cr Ranadive was unavailable, however Cr Mitchell said: "this was an internal party process and I can't go into it."
Liberal Party Communications Manager Ian Zakon said the party only caucuses at a local government level on the election of mayor (if not popularly elected), deputy mayor and committee chairs. "We're all about freedom of speech," he said.
Cr Penfold's new title has set his campaign wheels in motion to take on Mayor Loretta Baker, and become the city's next leader at the 2020 local government election. He was contacted for comment but did not respond. Cr Penfold was unsuccessful in his bid for mayor in 2017.
Cr Baker said the deputy mayor is only relevant if the mayor is sick or on leave.
"The people elect the mayor and the deputy mayor is elected by the councillors often via back room deals, which is why it is not ideal," she said.
"Cr Penfold was elected by six people - five councillors voted against him and two were absent.
"Therefore he has the support of only six of the 13 councillors."
On Tuesday night, Labor councillor Robert Aitchison was shut down in a motion of dissent by Cr Griffin, before he could share his thoughts on Cr Penfold's win.
"I know there was a Liberal councillor who wanted to be deputy mayor because they contacted me for my support.
"I have a copy of the Liberal Party's Local Government Rules.
"It's a public document on the ICAC website and it is clear the only way the Liberals could support Cr Penfold instead of a Liberal candidate is if they voted against their own Liberal colleague in an internal party meeting," Cr Aitchison said.