By Cam Lucadou-Wells and Brendan Rees
Former Casey mayor Sam Aziz has fired a broadside at a State shadow cabinet member while resigning from the Liberal Party.
Cr Aziz, who is facing serious corruption allegations at the state IBAC Operation Inquiry, stated opposition local government spokesperson Tim Smith was “riding the wave of media-driven crucifixion”.
The Kew MP had “effectively convicted me and another councillor, even before a single charge has been laid”, Cr Aziz stated on 15 February.
“He has also been recklessly calling for the entire council to be sacked.”
In November, IBAC heard that Cr Aziz and Cr Geoff Ablett allegedly received hundreds of thousands of dollars from property developer John Woodman for favourable planning decisions.
Cr Aziz said “the subjects of that enquiry have not yet even begun to provide their explanations and defence”.
“The latest tirade from the irrelevant Smith calls for my dismissal, along with Cr Ablett, from the Liberal Party.
“If this is the intellectual calibre of individuals that the Liberal Party selects for parliamentary roles, then it is not a party with which I want to continue membership.”
Cr Aziz listed Casey’s “remarkable achievements” including Bunjil Place and other community infrastructure without council debt.
Mr Smith responded on Twitter that “I’ve never been attacked from Cairo (before)”.
“But I’m genuinely delighted that Aziz has resigned from the Liberal Party.
“Whilst he’s at it he should resign from Casey Council.
“Let’s hope he has the ticker to return to Melbourne to answer serious questions from the anti-corruption commission.”
Cr Aziz did not follow the lead of Rex Flannery and Tim Jackson, who resigned as Casey councillors on 14 February in the wake of media reports that a State-appointed Monitor at the council recommended the council’s sacking.
It throws into turmoil Casey’s special planning committee that was to be headed by Mr Flannery and two appointed members. The committee was scheduled to meet on 25 February.
Mr Flannery told Star News he hoped Cr Aziz – “a loser in exile” – was found guilty and jailed.
“City of Casey is probably the best council in Australia and now it’s gone down the gurgler, and the brand name is being destroyed by one man.”
On 14 February, mayor Susan Serey meanwhile issued a statement decrying “unfair” media coverage on the Monitor’s report that had yet to be publicly released nor viewed by Casey.
“Whilst I appreciate the need for the extra scrutiny of councillors, especially following the revelations at the IBAC at the end of last year, the ongoing speculation and backdoor briefing of journalists has continued to undermine the credibility of councillors and the commitment with which we have turned up every day to represent our communities in extremely challenging circumstances.
“Throughout the monitor’s tenure, City of Casey had no indication that the monitor would be recommending the dismissal of all councillors.”
Cr Serey called for the State Government to dismiss “individual” councillors rather than the whole of council, as well as the release of the report to Casey.
A State Government spokesperson said the Government was “considering” the Monitor’s final report’s findings.
The report would be released “in due course”.
Casey Council issued a statement that it was awaiting the Victorian Electoral Commission to start countback proceedings to replace Mr Jackson and Mr Flannery on the council.
Casey Ratepayers and Residents Association spokesman Brendan Browne welcomed the resignations saying the “writing’s on the wall” for council to be dismissed.
“Assuming they will be sacked there will be some very happy ratepayers,” he said. “They’ve lacked transparency all along”.