Former Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne vows to return after being dumped

Former Inner West Mayor Darcy Byrne. Photo: Associazione Puglia Sydney/Facebook.

By PETER HACKNEY

The former mayor of Inner West Council, Darcy Byrne, is vowing to return to the top job after being removed from office just three months out from the NSW local government elections.

On Tuesday night, he was replaced by Greens councillor Rochelle Porteous, who will serve as mayor until the elections are held on Saturday, 4 December. 

In a statement, Ms Porteous noted that she was the first female mayor in the history of the LGA.

“The interesting thing about that is there is a majority of female councillors on the Inner West Council, so we really haven’t had much representation,” Ms Porteous said.

“I recognise the fact that it’s only in the last few months that we have a female mayor and I’m very grateful to be that female mayor.”

Inner West Mayor Rochelle Porteous. Photo: Inner West Council.

Meanwhile, the ALP’s Byrne described his removal as a “ridiculous” situation that would divert attention from the council’s work to combat Covid-19.

“Through a backroom deal, in the middle of the Covid lockdown, a temporary mayor has been installed for a ridiculous three-month term leading up to the council elections,” Byrne said.

“This political game playing will result in the council becoming less responsive to the community at a time when the virus is on the loose and local people need services to be stable and effective.”

Byrne’s spray followed Tuesday night’s council meeting, where he lost his seat by two votes.

He secured the support of five of the LGA’s 15 councillors, with seven votes going to Porteous and three abstentions.

His removal comes after the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) found him guilty of misconduct by breaching conflict of interest provisions when, in 2019, he used a council vote to quash unflattering social media posts about him.

In February, the NSW Office of Local Government (OLG) said Byrne failed to declare a significant non-pecuniary interest during the motion to force an apology from two councillors, whose Facebook followers made unflattering comments about him.

On 23 February at an Extraordinary Inner West Council meeting, Liberal Councillor Julie Passas moved a motion calling on Byrne to stand down as mayor over the issue.

“I am asking, Mr Mayor, that you voluntarily stand down from this Council … until the outstanding complaints against you are resolved,” she told the meeting.

Byrne ruled Passas’ motion “out of order” and claimed it was a breach of the NSW Local Government Act.

Byrne has vowed to run for mayor again in December, when Porteous will stand down from council.  

“This December, I will be standing to return as your elected Mayor. I will also continue to champion your vote on who you want as mayor,” Byrne wrote on Facebook.

“Our local Labor team will continue to work hard in the coming weeks to hold the temporary leadership of Council to account and to help local people get through the crisis.”

Peter Hackney is the editor-in-chief of the Sydney Sentinel.