Casey councillor paid amid probe
City of Casey councillors say they have had no choice but to grant extended leave to a colleague at the centre of a corruption inquiry.
City of Casey councillor Sam Aziz flew has been overseas and avoided giving public evidence to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) inquiry into allegations that he was bribed by developer John Woodman.
It has been alleged that Cr Aziz and other City of Casey councillors took money in exchange for favourable planning decisions.
Mayor Susan Serey acknowledged that granting Cr Aziz extended paid leave is “completely unacceptable”, but she had no alternative.
“I want to stress that my councillor colleagues sitting around this table wouldn't have voted for this motion unless it had potentially other serious legal implications for the City of Casey and its ratepayers,” she a council meeting this week.
“Having considered the medical advice provided by Cr Aziz in support of his application, as well as the legal advice which has reiterated our obligation to not unreasonably refuse leave, we believe we had no alternative to do otherwise.
“My fellow councillors and I feel and share your frustration with this issue.”
Cr Aziz has posted a statement on his Facebook page attempting to explain why he cannot return to duty.
“I have remained deliberately silent since this ordeal started in November last year, in what has become a media circus and a savage feeding frenzy by certain fringe groups and keyboard warriors who have always had an axe to grind,” the statement said.
Cr Aziz said he would return as soon as he could.
“I did end the work I have been doing overseas and changed my return flight home from 8 December 2019 to 19 November 2019,” the statement read.
“I paid a significant non-refundable fare difference to do so, however, I was prevented from boarding the aircraft at check-in due to a very serious cardiac health condition.
“My colleagues are also aware of significant mental health challenges I have been battling.
“It is obvious that while some pretend to care about mental health and its tragic consequences, it is hardly genuine.
“The savagery that I have seen from this process; the inhumane and hurtful commentary for months and the disgusting sensationalising of the matters at hand, is like pushing someone off a cliff, and then telling them not to hurt themselves on the way down.”
The Victorian Opposition wants Cr Aziz and the entire City of Casey council sacked.