By Cam Lucadou-Wells
2017 began with the sensational resignation by one Casey councillor and ended with the near political-death of another.
In March, Steve Beardon suddenly stood down a day after Casey launched an investigation into an argument with a female councillor soon after a heated council meeting.
It was just four months into his term as councillor, triggering the count-back election of replacement Cr Gary Rowe.
Mr Beardon had pulled a similar rein before – resigning 37 days after being elected in 2003.
His complainant Cr Milla Gilic claimed she was left in shock and unable to stop crying after what she described as “hateful”, “aggressive” and “threatening” abuse from Mr Beardon on 7 March.
Mr Beardon denied wrong-doing, telling Star News “why should I stay?” after Casey announced Code of Conduct and workplace safety investigations into the encounter.
Earlier that night, Cr Beardon had come under intense pressure, starting with a debate on Cr Rosalie Crestani’s proposed sister-city relationship between Casey and an Israeli city.
Cr Beardon’s attempts to link Cr Crestani’s Rise Up Australia membership were ruled out of order by Cr Aziz, and Cr Crestani demanded an apology from him.
Mayor Sam Aziz also ejected Cr Beardon from the chamber for 15 minutes for failing to sit down while the mayor spoke, and led a reprimand motion against him for criticising the mayor as well as a proposed chaplaincy program in the media.
“I challenge anyone to put themselves in this situation and remain,” Cr Beardon later said.
He had claimed he was targeted for being an outspoken critic including of Casey’s upcoming China trip and the cost of its chaplaincy program.
Cr Aziz said Cr Beardon’s resignation was a “pattern of behaviour” that showed he was “absolutely not fit to serve in public office in any capacity”.
Ironically, the man who turned the screws on Cr Beardon faced his own reckoning in December.
Cr Aziz faced expulsion from the council had he been convicted at Dandenong Magistrates’ Court on two counts of breaching intervention orders.
The three-time mayor, who originally indicated he’d fight the charges on grounds of mental impairment, pleaded guilty and copped a good-behaviour bond without conviction.
It remains to be seen if Cr Aziz will pursue threatened defamation action against Berwick Springs roundabout protesters over claims on the group’s Facebook page.
Residents are fighting Casey’s approval of a widened roundabout at Berwick Springs Promenade which would lead to the removal then rebuilding of the up-market estate’s bluestone wall entrance.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal will hear the appeal in early 2018.
There’s also a state election to look forward to in November 2018.
The ALP state government has already cleared the decks locally, with long-standing MPs Judith Couacaud Graley and Jude Perera resigning in the lead-up.
This election will be closely and bitterly contested, with law-and-order shaping as a prime issue.