Whittlesea councillors have been ejected from three of the past four ordinary council meetings amid rising tensions between two groups of councillors.
Councillors were removed from the November 21, February 6 and March 6 meetings, by mayor Kris Pavlidis who said they were not following her directions.
On November 21, councillors Mary Lalios and Ricky Kirkham were asked to leave. Cr Norm Kelly was removed from the February 6 meeting and Cr Kirkham was removed from the March 6 meeting.
In recent months, two distinct council voting blocs have developed, with Labor-aligned councillors Pavlidis, Sam Alessi, Stevan Kozmevski, Lawrie Cox and Emilia Lisa Sterjova and independent Tom Joseph regularly voting together, while councillors Kirkham, Lalios, Kelly, Caz Monteleone and Alahna Desiato vote together.
The tension between the groups appears to have increased this year, with often heated debate over agenda items.
In the past, council meetings tended to finish about 8.30pm but more recent meetings are regularly finishing after 11pm.
Cr Lalios this week told Star Weekly she felt some councillors were being treated unfairly during meetings.
“I think there is inconsistency in the mayor’s rulings – I do feel I am being targeted,” she said.
“Some councillors get away with saying inappropriate things and other councillors who have a difference of opinion are warned consistently.
“The meetings are there to debate issues and people who have a difference of opinion are being kicked out.”
Cr Pavlidis defended her decision to remove councillors from the chamber, saying she would not tolerate “childish” behaviour.
“I am responsible for the conduct of the meetings and I will do as I have to do,” she said.
Cr Pavlidis, who has been on council for 13 years, said she could not recall a time when councillors were removed from meetings so often.
“Those councillors who are constantly conducting themselves in an unruly manner have been on council long enough to know better,” she said.
“If they are trying to undermine me, they are undermining themselves. It sends a poor message to the community.”
Council meeting minutes show that no councillors were removed from meetings in the 12 months prior to Cr Pavlidis’ election as mayor.