By Jackson Russell
The sacking of former Local Government Minister Adem Somyurek following allegations of branch stacking has raised questions about the legitimacy of Whittlesea council’s dismissal in March.
Premier Daniel Andrews sacked Mr Somyurek last week and accepted the resignations of his allies, Assistant Treasurer Robin Scott and Minister for Consumer Affairs Marlene Kairouz, in the wake of branch stacking allegations.
Following months of in-fighting and bullying allegations, Whittlesea council was sacked after independent monitor Yehudi Blacher’s report found council’s deep divides and personality conflicts rendered it dysfunctional.
Shortly after news broke of the branch stacking scandal last Sunday night, former Whittlesea mayor Emilia Sterjova published a statement on Facebook, questioning whether the sacking of both Whittlesea and Casey councils was legitimate and accusing Mr Somyurek of covering up bullying allegations against Labor councillors.
“My expulsion from the Labor Party came out after I left the group of ALP councillors who were tied to the bullying that led to the council’s dismissal,” Ms Sterjova said.
“I called out the behaviour but the ALP dropped my bullying tribunal and rushed my expulsion as I could not ‘bind’ with councillors who I believed were making poor decisions for our community, relentlessly bullying all the women at our council (as shown in written letters from each one that I provided to the party) and were tied to the same faction as Adem.
“My tribunal felt like a kangaroo court process chaired by one sole man from the same faction as Adem Somyurek.”
Former Whittlesea councillor Tom Joseph said anyone claiming there were now questions over the validity of council’s sacking was ‘completely delusional’.
“The recommendation was made by monitor Yehudi Blacher. He’s a man of life-long public service and impeccable integrity,” he said.
“It was not a political decision, it was a decision made by a well-regarded public servant.
“It’s absolute nonsense. I don’t think internal party politics had any impact, absolutely not.”
Member for Yan Yean Danielle Green said she supported the Premier’s actions and the public could have ‘absolute trust’ in the process that led to Whittlesea council’s dismissal.
“Mr Blacher is a highly-respected career public servant whose report into council was positively damning,” she said.
“Further, I welcome the appointment of the administration panel of chair Lydia Wilson, Peita Duncan and Bruce Bilson and look forward to working with them to the benefit of Whittlesea ratepayers.”
The Review submitted several questions to both Ms Green and Member for Northern Victoria and cabinet minister Jaclyn Symes.
The questions asked whether either MP supported the sacking and resignations, had prior knowledge of Mr Somyurek’s dealings, about restrictions placed on who could enter their offices last week while an internal ALP investigation began, how the branch-stacking allegations had affected the party’s reputation and if Mr Somyurek’s involvement affected the legitimacy of the Whittlesea council sacking.
Ms Green responded with the statement above, while Ms Symes’ media adviser directed the Review to the Premier’s online media release.