BY JOHN MOYLE
It has taken the Inner West Council just two months since its formation to achieve headlines for all the wrong reasons, and most of these come down to two words: Julie Passas.
Having served three terms on the old Ashfield Council, in September Councillor Passas was elected as a Liberal candidate for the Ashfield Ward on the new council.
In no time she was sucking the oxygen out of the Inner West because Labor Mayor Darcy Byrne did a deal with the Liberals and appointed Cr Passas, Liberal, as deputy mayor for twelve months, despite the Liberals gaining only two council positions.
“The deputy mayor issue was an instance where the Greens were concerned that Labor was putting power before principle,” Tom Kiat, Greens, Ashfield Ward said.
Then came the flag-gate issue [allegations that Cr Passas intimidated a gay neighbour after he hung a rainbow flag over his balcony], which City Hub covered last week, so I thought in the name of balanced journalism that I should contact Julie Passas for her side of the story.
Speaking with City Hub this week, Cr Passas was adamant that she had done nothing wrong and that we had got our facts wrong by suggesting that the police had been called to the flag incident.
“As far as I am concerned, if there has been any harassment it has been channeled at me,” Passas said.
Then she threw down the gauntlet by challenging the City Hub to “look into my history.”
Well, always the fearless free press, that is what we have done and it makes for entertaining reading.
Cr Passas’ council history on record goes all the way back to 2001, when the Daily Telegraph reported on an incident in which she was accused of threatening the life of fellow Ashfield councillor Emma Brooks Maher following a staff Christmas party.
Full of goodwill and cheer, CR Passas was reported to have called Cr Brooks Maher a “slimy bitch” and further threatened her with three Italians, who possibly weren’t Santa’s little helpers.
Furthermore, Cr Brooks Maher claimed that Cr Passas had previously physically assaulted her in the Ashfield Council kitchen.
Another 2001 Ashfield Council incident saw the tables turned on Cr Passas, when she claimed that then Mayor Mark Bonanno, assaulted her while she was using a telephone in the council’s dining room, from which she was banned from entering after she had accused a fellow councillor of lying.
In the same year, Cr Passas accused Mayor Lucille McKenna of defamation in a spat about her or her family leasing council property in Yeo Street.
That meeting had to be adjourned when it erupted into a shouting match between Cr Passas, Labor councillor Mark Drury, and the public gallery.
“If any of us behave badly it reflects on the entire council and the work that we are doing,” Cr Pauline Lockie, Independent, Stanmore Ward, said.
In 2004 Ashfield residents had to stump up $1,200 for a vote recount that saw Cr Passas lose by 27 votes, while her nemesis, Cr Emma Brooks Maher, was re-elected.
Not a good year for Passas, as her AVO against Cr Mark Bonanno also failed and she was ordered to pay $100,000 in costs.
But Cr Passas is not always in the thick of things, as she sometimes leaves the chambers on her own free will, which she did in 2013 when Ashfield Council was discussing a rainbow crossing, saying that “Council should not be involved in the issue.”
See a pattern forming here?
2014 was the year that politicians at all levels debated the 18C Racial Discrimination Act – that is all except for Cr Passas, who declared that it was a federal issue and not a council one.
“I have grown up without any laws and it has made me a better person,” Cr Passas said.
This was also the year that Cr Passas questioned the need for the council to welcome new babies into the area, citing that fixing footpaths was more constructive.
It seems Cr Passas knows footpaths well. During a Marrickville Council election, she was photographed tossing a cigarette butt onto one outside a school polling booth, on a day that also saw her being asked to leave the area because her election material had not been registered.
At the time she said,” I couldn’t swallow the cigarette.”
It came as a surprise to many who know her when, in 2015, Cr Passas silenced herself.
Actually, she had taped her mouth in protest after accusing fellow councillors of gagging her because she was the subject of a Code of Conduct investigation being held behind closed doors.
Only three months into the year, Cr Passas had already been ejected from two Ashfield Council meetings, leading her to say “I’m fed up with the whole thing if people don’t like my deliverance.”
By July, Cr Passas was back in the chamber busy rounding the troops to vote against the motion that Ashfield Council publicly support marriage equality.
She said that she did not think that “the Ashfield Council should be speaking for the 43,000 Ashfield residents on this matter.”
“A hiccup” is how Cr Passas described the Civil and Administration Tribunal’s finding that she had engaged in seven grounds of misconduct while serving on Ashfield Council.
These findings state that between 2013 and 2015, Cr Passas had disrupted council meetings, refused to leave the chambers after official warnings, and belittled a council engineer engaged in roadworks.
City Hub understands Cr Passas has been referred to the Internal Council Ombudsman over recent her altercation with her neighbour and that rainbow flag.
“We have been advised by the general manager that we are not allowed to comment on the matter,” Colin Hesse, Greens, Marrickville Ward said.
Yes dear reader, there may be something at the end of the rainbow..