By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Casey council has launched two parallel investigations against Cr Steve Beardon after an alleged heated argument with a female councillor outside after a council meeting.
Earlier, in an extraordinarily dramatic Casey council meeting on 7 March, Mayor Sam Aziz had led a formal reprimand against Cr Beardon for publicly criticising the mayor and the council’s chaplaincy proposal.
In the reprimand motion on 7 March, Cr Beardon was condemned “in the strongest possible terms” for “ignorant, ill-informed, biased, inappropriate and factually incorrect comments” made to the media.
Earlier in the meeting, Cr Beardon was ejected from the chamber for 15 minutes by the mayor.
And in a further sequel, Casey has launched a Code of Conduct and an occupational health-and-safety investigation against Cr Beardon over the incident with a female councillor after the meeting.
Cr Beardon said he had “nothing to worry” about the incident, challenging Casey to release video footage.
He said the complaining councillor had just been “abusing” a male councillor when he “questioned’ her about why he should apologise to Cr Rosalie’s Crestani for taking issue with her Rise Up Australia membership.
“If I turn up with my shoelaces undone, they’d breach me for a Code of Conduct,” Cr Beardon said.
“Maybe I should turn up to the next council meeting in boots with zips on them.”
Cr Aziz said the complainant was “distraught” and “afraid” after being “cornered” outside in the car park alone by Cr Beardon.
The mayor said Cr Beardon allegedly said some “really ugly things about his colleagues, especially female councillors”.
“He’s probably breached the entire code,” Cr Aziz said.
“He shouldn’t go for people who are vulnerable and unable to fight back.
“If he had to have a go at anyone, he should have gone at me. I’m the mayor and the one who initiated this (reprimand) action.”
In the reprimand motion, Cr Beardon’s criticisms of the chaplaincy proposal were described as “pre-emptive” given council officers had yet to finalise their report on the matter.
He was also condemned for “outright lies” and a “malicious personal attack” on Cr Aziz in a Star News article on the disbanding of the council’s Access and Inclusion committee in February.
Cr Beardon had then told Star News that “Cr Aziz certainly didn’t speak for me or for most councillors on inclusion issues” and that the mayor “needs to understand that some councillors are trying to build bridges”.
“What hurts me is when elected people aren’t welcoming,” Cr Beardon then said.
“That’s the direction Australia doesn’t want to go.”
Most councillors backed the reprimand motion, which warned that Cr Beardon would face sanctions under the Code of Conduct for a repeat offence.
Cr Beardon said he’d continue to “speak out” on issues even if he risked being suspended from the council for two weeks.
He said by speaking up, he’d made the community aware of issues like the council’s China trip and the cost of the chaplaincy program.
“Yes I will speak up on behalf of my ward, and will canvass opinion and will raise issues on behalf of the community.
‘Why I am elected otherwise?”
He didn’t deny a claim made in council that he’d told a female chaplain that he wouldn’t have boycotted a meeting with her if he’d known she was blonde and good looking.
Cr Beardon later said it was in context of him being “condescending back“ to the chaplain, who was trying to “educate” him on Christianity.
The moves followed a fiery debate over Casey councillor Rosalie Crestani raising an urgent motion for the council to hold discussions with the Israeli city Ofakim for a possible sister-city relationship.
In dissent, Cr Beardon said Israel seemed to be an “unusual” destination for the council to reach out.
“I can surmise it’s to do with religious tendencies … ” Cr Beardon said – before Cr Aziz ruled him out of order on “relevance and fact”.
“And you’re out of time anyway,” Cr Aziz said.
Cr Aziz then asked Cr Beardon: “Do you have a moral objection to setting up a relationship with Israel?”
Cr Beardon replied that he was against such overseas ventures generally, given agricultural experts were “in our own backyard”.
During the exchange, Cr Aziz warned that Cr Beardon was a minute away from being ejected.
Later in the meeting, the pair again clashed when Cr Beardon raised a motion about the lack of broadband, landline and mobile services in Belmond housing estate in Clyde.
Cr Aziz evicted the councillor from the chamber for 15 minutes after the latter refused to sit down while the mayor was talking.