Not standing: Councillor Kent Johns said he did not want to be a lightning rod for the council. Photo: Lisa McMahon
Kent Johns has been replaced as Sutherland Shire mayor following damaging allegations raised by the Herald concerning special favours awarded to developers with Liberal Party connections.
Councillor Johns decided not to contest the mayoral ballot which was held on Monday night.
He also pulled out of the Liberal Party preselection contest for the state seat of Miranda.
Graham Annesley. Photo: John Veage
Cr Johns was the frontrunner to replace former sports minister Graham Annesley, who has left Parliament to take over the running of the Gold Coast Titans. In a mayoral minute, Cr Johns said he was confident that when full investigations were undertaken, his actions would be found to have been lawful.
"I should not be a lightning rod for this council and therefore I won't be standing as mayor," he said. "The matters have to be cleared up, and and I don't want to be a distraction from what the council needs to do," he told the St George Leader.
He believed he had made "a lot of enemies" by "trying to change the culture of the council too quickly".
Fairfax Media revealed that developers, home owners and businesses with Liberal Party connections were shown special treatment by the council and by Cr Johns.
Under his mayoralty, the council was restructured, resulting in the sacking of its most senior directors and the abolition of its internal ombudsman.
Independent planning assessment panels were also replaced by hand-picked candidates.
Cr Johns, who unsuccessfully ran for the federal seat of Werriwa recently, was pushing for radical new planning rules that would vastly increase the density of building across the shire, conferring windfalls on a select list of property holders.
At the same time, the Liberal Party was soliciting federal campaign donations from developers who stood to benefit from the planning changes.
Liberal councillor Steve Simpson was elected mayor and Cr Tom Croucher deputy mayor.
The council has voted to request a public inquiry be conducted by the Minister for Local Government.