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Community Outrage at Mayor’s Pettiness

May 15, 2024

The Hawkesbury City Council convened for its regular monthly session last night, but what transpired was anything but routine. Tensions flared as tempers ran high with the meeting dissolving into acrimony and chaos, with Councillor Nathan Zamprogno’s expulsion from the chamber by an angry Mayor Sarah McMahon.

The catalyst for this dramatic turn of events, was a surprise mayoral minute put forward by Cr McMahon at the eleventh hour. The motion sought to compel councillors to disclose any involvement they, or their extended family, may have with social media platforms or publications discussing the affairs of the Council, its members, or its staff. 

The controversial move was aimed squarely at the Facebook page “Hawkesbury City Councillor Watch (HCCW).” The website uses publicly available data about Council meetings and presents it in a simple format. The page is administered by the domestic partner of Councillor Nathan Zamprogno. 

The Community was largely outraged by the Mayor’s behaviour resulting in their comments being deleted from the Mayor’s Facebook page.
“It was awful. Quite unprofessional and unnecessary. I’ve never seen anything so petulant,” FB user Kirsten Radunz said.

A report published last month by HCCW appears to have prompted Cr McMahon’s motion, as well as her aggressive prosecution of it at last night’s meeting. It showed that Cr McMahon had the most absences from council meetings in the current term, having missed 10.7% of votes over more than 22 months.  Importantly, more than half Cr McMahon’s absences (5.8%)  were due to her recusal from votes for conflicts of interest.

Cr McMahon’s high level of recusals were due to her domestic partner Matthew Bennett’s various property interests. 

Mayor claims community called her a narcissist, a grub, a poor leader.

After the motion was presented,  a heated and protracted debate that consumed more than an hour of council time followed. It was punctuated by a 15 -minute recess prompted by Mayor McMahon’s decision to seek “legal advice.” However, the tension didn’t dissipate during the break. Before the hiatus, Cr Zamprogno admitted remarking to McMahon that: “You can try to rake me over the coals here Sarah, but the investigations underway about you have much sharper teeth!”.

While Cr Zamprogno vehemently denied any suggestion of physical harm, Cr McMahon today took to social media to claim she had found the threat “so severe, that it was the most appalling statement I have heard within the Chamber in my entire elected career (sic)”. This behaviour will not be tolerated,” she declared on FB. 

The Post believes Cr Zamprogno may have been referring to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), but this could not be confirmed by Cr Zamprogno. ICAC has a policy of not commenting on or confirming its investigations. There is no suggestion there is any investigation underway into HCC or the Mayor.

“I replied at the time that I took that as a threat, which to me insinuated a threat of physical violence,” Cr McMahon told the Post. “The words he has used on his Facebook page, referencing that he was referring to an ‘investigation’ are not accurate as far as my understanding and it is disappointing that he may be trying to recreate history to make his words sound less threatening.”

Today on social media, Cr McMahon published numerous posts about the matter She accused Cr Zamprogno of making veiled threats and indicated that she was considering legal action. In a Facebook post titled “Abuse continues…,” she even hinted at the possibility of reconsidering her candidacy in the upcoming elections, citing the toxic atmosphere surrounding local politics. She deleted comments and later limited comments on her  posts following numerous critical remarks.

The controversy didn’t end with Cr McMahon’s expulsion of Cr Zamprogno. While the motion passed with the support of the council’s ruling majority, dissenting voices within the council chamber expressed serious reservations about both the motion itself, and Cr McMahon’s conduct. 

“I don’t consider the Mayoral Minute as it was presented, an example of responsible civic leadership,” Councillor Mary Lyons-Bucklett told the Post. “It did not satisfy the definition of urgent within the Code of Meeting Practice, and in my opinion it was provocative and unnecessary. 

Greens Councillor Danielle Wheeler said: “In my opinion, last night’s mayoral minute was out of order.  It wasn’t urgent.  It took up valuable time in a meeting where we ended up having to defer important matters because we went over-time. Councillors are not our partners’ or families’ keepers and nor should we be expected to be. The mayoral minute is overreach.” 

 

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