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Northern beaches council: Claims of toxic, combative council as one tells another to 'f... off'

TOXIC COUNCIL?: Northern beaches councillors (clockwise from top left) Candy Bingham, Stuart Sprott, Rory Amon, Penny Philpott, Michael Regan and Roslyn Harrison.
TOXIC COUNCIL?: Northern beaches councillors (clockwise from top left) Candy Bingham, Stuart Sprott, Rory Amon, Penny Philpott, Michael Regan and Roslyn Harrison.

ACCUSATIONS of a fractious and toxic council have spilled over, with one councillor telling another to "f... off" mid-meeting.

Council's monthly meetings are often long and, almost five hours into their recent Zoom meeting, with councillors dialling in remotely, deputy mayor Candy Bingham was overheard using the expletive towards Cr Rory Amon.

Cr Amon called it out as "verbal abuse" and Cr Bingham quickly apologised. "I do withdraw and I do apologise, I didn't realise I wasn't on mute".

Cr Bingham told the Northern Beaches Review she had become frustrated over prolonged discussions for a report to be called.

"When it was brought to my attention, which of course it was, I immediately apologised," she said. "Frankly, I suspect I might have said what quite a few people were thinking."

CAUGHT OUT: Deputy mayor Candy Bingham told councillor Rory Amon to "f... off" during council's recent Zoom meeting without realising she wasn't on mute. Pictures: Geoff Jones

CAUGHT OUT: Deputy mayor Candy Bingham told councillor Rory Amon to "f... off" during council's recent Zoom meeting without realising she wasn't on mute. Pictures: Geoff Jones

With local government elections just a month away, some councillors, including Cr Amon and Cr Stuart Sprott, said there are factions, double standards and ruling parties within council. Cr Bingham, Cr Roslyn Harrison and mayor Michael Regan are among those to deny the accusations.

Cr Amon, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in September, said the eight councillors who voted in Cr Regan as mayor are the "controlling factions" of council.

Frankly, I suspect I might have said what quite a few people were thinking.

Northern Beaches Council deputy mayor Candy Bingham

"When there are motions put up by councillors, not in that controlling faction, then those motions are, in my view and experience, typically subjected to a greater level of scrutiny by the chamber than those motions put up buy those in the controlling factions," he said.

"All you do when you oppose reports and things of that kind is create a culture of mistrust, you create a culture of combat, you create a culture of conflict and you create culture that lacks any goodwill between councillors."

All you do when you oppose reports and things of that kind is create a culture of mistrust.

Councillor Rory Amon

Many of the claims of a toxic, combative nature between councillors ignited when Cr Sprott put forward a motion "that council staff prepare a report to increase and update the skate park at Aquatic Reserve". This reserve is in Frenchs Forest next to Warringah Aquatic Reserve.

Following the debate, Cr Sprott praised council staff, but told the Review that councillors do not work as a "united cohesive governing body".

NO TEAM WORK: Councillor Stuart Sprott says councillors do not work as a united cohesive governing body. Picture: Geoff Jones

NO TEAM WORK: Councillor Stuart Sprott says councillors do not work as a united cohesive governing body. Picture: Geoff Jones

"With a united team at the top we can achieve great things for our community but the toxic culture that has been allowed to grow and mature in this governing body is nothing but disappointing," he said.

During the recent meeting, Cr Harrison said talk of their being factions within council was "totally offensive".

Cr Penny Philpott was also "offended by talk of factions" but said that "with the best or worst intentions, some of our councillors are there for purely political gain".

Cr Regan said he did not hear Cr Bingham swear during the meeting. "She obviously felt frustrated and dropped the f-bomb and I think we've all been guilty of that at some stage, unfortunately hers was recorded.

Ninety per cent of the motions are unanimous so how is there factions and divisions if the majority of motions are unanimous?

Mayor Michael Regan

Cr Regan denied accusations of council being factitious, but that there is definitely election campaigning going on.

"Ninety per cent of the motions are unanimous so how is there factions and divisions if the majority of motions are unanimous?" he said. "There's definitely a campaign going on in terms of councillors who want to get re-elected. Some will take any opportunity to politicise."

Cr Amon and Cr Sprott said ratepayers lose out when there is infighting and referred to a bill of $415,000 for 42 recent code of conduct complaints, 21 of which were councillor against councillor. Cr Amon argued that this money could be used for roads, footpaths and community services.

Following debate into Cr Sprott's motion for Aquatic Reserve, the motion was updated to: That the following matters be deferred to the Recreation Strategy:

  1. To investigate the provision of additional skate parks including Aquatic Reserve.
  2. Investigate the condition of all of the Aquatic Reserve Playing Fields

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