Greek Australian councillors in Victoria have found themselves amidst political upheaval regarding their election as mayors.
Cr Mary Lalios was re-elected on December 2 as mayor of Whittlesea, while Cr Stella Karyofyllidis was elected, for the second time on December 7 as mayor of Moreland after holding the post in 2000.
The elections created commotion with councillors including those in the cities of Whittlesea and Moreland. Cr Lalios, in the City of Whittlesea, was re-nominated as mayor despite having previously signed an agreement with fellow councillors to support another candidate for the post of mayor.
Cr Lalios doesn’t deny signing the agreement and has, according to a report in the Whittlesea Leader, argued that she signed the document “under duress.”
The apparent agreement took place between councillors who are unofficially supported by the Labor Party. In Whittlesea the councillors are ALP aligned while in Moreland they are Labor endorsed.
Among them is Cr Pavlides who launched a vitriolic attack against Cr Lalios when talking to Neos Kosmos. “With her latest move she lost the trust of her colleagues, the [Labor] party and especially of the ratepayers. She sold us out. She showed that above all she puts her own personal interest.”
Cr Lalios in response to Cr Pavlidis’ comments said to Neos Kosmos English Edition, (NKEE), that Cr Pavlidis has already raised the “substance of the observations being made now with all the elected councillors prior to the Mayoral vote being taken.”
She went on to state that, “fellow councillors decided that I am the best person to be the Mayor.”
Cr Lalios, when responding to NKEE rejected any criticism by saying, “It is not in the best interests of the residents of the City of Whittlesea for me to become involved in a debate being mounted by others.”
She said that her main concern was to meet the needs of “148,000 multicultural residents; bushfire recovery work; the massive growth in our municipality and the potential of 10,500 hectares of land being developed into new homes, streets, schools, sporting grounds, shopping centres and playgrounds.”
She underscored her concern for the development of infrastructure to meet the needs of the area’s residents.
A similar situation was reported in the City of Moreland with the difference being that eight out of the 11 acting councillors have been elected with the official support of the ALP.
Moreland is one of the few Victorian municipalities where Labor officially endorses candidates. Cr Karyofillidis, broke ranks last Monday along with other three ALP supported councillors and sided with two Greens and one independent to become the mayor of Moreland for 2009-2010.
While the ALP had thrown its support behind Cr Erdogan, Cr Karyofyllidisclaims that Cr Erdogan’s youth and inexperience forced her to go against her party.
Former mayor of Moreland, Lambros Tapinos, himself a young councillor, disputed her claim.
“I don’t believe age plays a major role; there are some very talented young people in local government” Mr Tapinos said.
He added, “Young people have a lot to contribute to local government. I think the energy, the enthusiasm and new ideas that they bring is a great plus.”
He suggested that Cr Karyofillidis’ decision not to abide by ALP directives was driven by “personal ambition.”
At the same time, Mr Tapinos congratulated Cr Kariofilidis on her election saying, “this is a good thing for the Greek community in general.”
This is the second time that Cr Karyofyllidishas defied the ALP line. In 2004 she advocated for voting preferences contrary to the party’s directive.
Her defiance resulted in Cr Karyofyllidis losing her ALP membership for two years.
Councillors who are elected as mayors work full time with a remuneration package of about $80,000 per annum, and are provided council car. In contrast, councillors are part-time and receive approximately $25,000 per annum.