Change sought for Kiama council mayor vote

Cr Neil Reilly was stripped of his deputy mayor title less than 24 hours after being elected.There are calls for a change to how Kiama Municipal Council elects its mayor and deputy mayor after a recount led to Cr Neil Reilly being stripped of his deputy mayor title, less than 24 hours after being elected.

Some Kiama councillors have called on the mayor and deputy to be elected by ratepayers at the council elections every four years, rather than have Kiama’s nine councillors vote on the positions annually.

Cr Reilly was declared Kiama’s deputy mayor for the next 12 months last Tuesday night and spent Wednesday representing Kiama council at a Southern Councils Group meeting at Parliament House.

On his return to Kiama, Cr Reilly was called to witness a recount by the general manager and returning officer Michael Forsyth along with two other candidates, councillors Warren Steel and Mark Way.

It was revealed Cr Reilly had received four primary votes, Cr Steel three and Cr Way two.

However, the second preferences of Cr Way’s votes both flowed to Cr Steel, giving the veteran councillor a 5-4 victory.

A disappointed Cr Reilly said the council’s decision on the night to use a preferential ballot system contributed to the outcome.

Cr Dennis Seage, who voted for Cr Reilly, said in hindsight he would have challenged the method of voting, rarely used by Kiama council, and opted for the usual show of hands.

Cr Seage said the annual vote introduced ‘‘personality politics’’ to the council.

‘‘I think it would be better to have a popularly elected mayor…let the councillors who are elected get on with the job they are elected to do, rather than worry about looking after their mates at an annual election.’’

Cr Way, whose second preference helped Cr Steel over the line, said he thought the majority of councillors were caught unaware on Tuesday night.

‘‘At the end of the day, the correct count was made, but I think that at each council election, people should get to vote for mayor – and deputy mayor – at the same time.’’

Wrong count leaves Neil Reilly disappointed

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