Salim’s coun­cil claims a new low

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - BEN PIKE

HE’S been con­victed for elec­toral fraud, stalk­ing his for­mer wife and as­sault­ing both a taxi driver and a jour­nal­ist and now Salim Me­ha­jer holds the record for be­ing part of the most com­plained-about Syd­ney coun­cil.

Me­ha­jer was the for­mer deputy mayor of Auburn Coun­cil, which was dis­solved in Fe­bru­ary 2016 — but not be­fore re­ceiv­ing 397 of­fi­cial com­plaints in 2015-16.

This is the high­est num­ber of com­plaints any NSW coun­cil has re­ceived since at least 2008, ac­cord­ing to Of­fice of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment fig­ures ob­tained ex­clu­sively by The Sun­day Tele­graph. Most coun­cils aver­age about 20 com­plaints per year.

The vast ma­jor­ity of com­plaints about Auburn were for mis­con­duct, mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion or coun­cil gov­er­nance. Many came af­ter the 31-year-old’s lav­ish wed­ding in August 2015, which in­volved he­li­copter land­ings, a jet fly­over and il­le­gal road clo­sures.

“It is to their dis­credit Auburn Coun­cil and Salim Me­ha­jer hold the un­en­vi­able record of be­ing a part of the most com­plained­about NSW coun­cil in re­cent mem­ory,” Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Gabrielle Up­ton said.

“The NSW Gov­ern­ment re­forms, in­clud­ing a com­pre­hen­sive Model Code of Con­duct for coun­cil­lors which is be­ing fi­nalised, will tar­get dodgy be­hav­iour and coun­cil­lors who abuse their public of­fice for per­sonal or fi­nan­cial gain.”

The num­ber of com­plaints in 2016-17 was 811, a 44 per cent re­duc­tion com­pared to the 1454 com­plaints the pre­vi­ous year.

This is de­spite the state gov­ern­ment’s bun­gled amal­ga­ma­tion pol­icy in 2016, which cut the num­ber of coun­cils from 150 to 120.

Cen­tral Coast Coun­cil was the most com­plained about coun­cil in 2016-17 with 32 com­plaints, fol­lowed by Ge­orges River (30), Port Stephens (26), North­ern Beaches (25) and By­ron Shire (23).

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