CANTERBURY general manager Jim Montague will be asked to resign at an extraordinary meeting of council on January 27, after allegations he spent $50,000 of ratepayers’ money over the past four years to dine at an Enfield restaurant.
Fairfax Media reported on Monday that Canterbury Mayor Brian Robson was one of a group of regulars who dined with Mr Montague at Italian restaurant Il Buco on Fridays.
While Liberal councillor Michael Hawatt is calling for Mr Montague – on an annual salary of $300,000 and at the helm of the council for over 30 years – to resign, Labor councillor Karl Saleh is demanding a full investigation into the accusations.
“I’m feeling pretty outraged and upset,” Cr Saleh said.
Greens councillor Linda Eisler wants an Office of Local Government investigation with a focus on the council’s recent controversial planning decisions.
“I do not support ratepayers’ money being spent on lunches,” she said.
In a statement, Mr Montague says the figures published in the Sydney Morning Herald are not accurate and he will not be commenting further.
Mayor Robson, though, was more forthcoming and said the figures were distorted by political opponents to unstable the council.
“It’s a concerted effort by some councillors to take control of council,” he said.
“The real figure is closer to $40,000 over five years. That equates to about $8,000 from an annual budget of $100 million.”
Besides lunches, the figure included functions to entertain dignitaries and guests of the council, he said.
Mayor Robson will not be supporting the general manager’s resignation.
The controversy follows the cash-strapped council increasing rates by 7.5 per cent each year for the next three years, scrapping an immunisation plan and closing a pool over winter in an effort to get it back in the black.
An extraordinary meeting of the council – with a motion for Mr Montague’s resignation – was called for by Cr Hawatt on December 24.
Cr Hawatt said the Mayor had breached the Act by failing to hold that meeting within 14 days. However, Mayor Robson said the Act also stated that the meeting must be called “as soon as practicable”.
The meeting will be held on January 27, and Mayor Robson said he expected a rowdy gathering, with plenty of support for the general manager to remain in his job.