THERE must be an election on the way.
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Newcastle City Council has dodged itsnear-death experience by avoiding a mergerwith Port Stephens,andwith anelection now set forSeptember the city’s Labor and Liberal councillors havewasted no time ratcheting uphostilities.

Liberal councillor Lisa Tierney’s went out swinging on Tuesday, issuing a dramatic resignation letter in which she accusedLord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes of bullying staff, wasting ratepayer money on overseas trips and overseeing a “sham” process in the council’s beleaguered search for a new general manager.

In a lengthy statement MsTierneylisted several concerns over the council’s status quo, declaring she “can no longer be a part of something that goes against everything I believe in”.

“For staff and many councillors it has now reached breaking point,” MsTierney wrote.

“I am resigning to make a stand in the hope the state government will step in.”

Ms Tierney did not respond to numerous calls for comment on Wednesday, and her claims were strongly rebutted by Cr Nelmes, who labelled them “unsubstantiated allegations” and said they were“untrue and defamatory”.

She said she was “deeply hurt by these falsities”.

“While I do love having a civic leadership role that allows me to fulfill my passion to make Newcastle a smart, liveable and sustainable cityI have not enjoyed the nasty politics that goes with this job,” she said.

Ms Tierney’s shock exit –which leaves Newcastle City Council two representatives short–comesafter a barrage of criticism leveled at the lord mayor in recent days, with the Liberals taking aim at her decision to take hernine-year-old daughter on anoverseas trip to Singapore and charge $270 in childcare to ratepayers.

Ms Tierney took aim at Cr Nelmesfor her overseas travel–which has also included trips to Geneva and the United States–in this term, saying it was“a bad look”.

“I have not seen any benefit for ratepayers in any of these overseas trips and I feel very uncomfortable with these types of expenses being billed back to Council,” she said.

But Labor were lining up to defend the besieged Lord Mayor on Wednesday, accusing their Liberal counterparts of entering election mode, and attacking their own record on the council.

Labor councillor Declan Clausen said he had “routinely witnessed”MsTierney’s absence from council meetings, and said her “decision to announce her resignation to a Sydney based News Limited paper with a series of baseless comments demonstrates great disrespect for the people of Newcastle”.

“Newcastle is undergoing a substantial transformation, and this is due to the collaborative approach taken by this Lord Mayor and Labor Councillor,” he said.

“Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes has done an extraordinary job in developing partnerships across political boundaries, government, the business and broader community to end years of infighting and chaos in our city.”

An analysis of council meeting attendances from 2015 and 2016 shows Ms Tierney attended only 60 per cent of meetings –the second worst of the city’s 12 councillors.

TheNewcastle Heraldalso understands that she has recently taken up an expandedposition as the group chief operating officerwith her employer Compass Housing and Liberal Party sources said she had not been expected to recontest her spot on the council.

It comes as more information is released about the fate Newcastle could have faced if the government had pushed ahead with its plans to merge the council with Port Stephens.

A Boundaries Commission report presented to former local government minister Paul Toolelast April reveals that if the government had acted on its recommendations the two councils would have been merged into a 15-councillor, five ward organisation called City of Hunter Coast.

MsTierney’s resignation means the councilis now down to 11after Newcastle state MP Tim Crakanthorp’sresignation.

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