Wagga councillor Dan Hayes has denied that he used ratepayer-funded advertising to benefit his run for Labor in the March state election.
Cr Hayes wrote a column in Wagga City Council’s weekly four-page lift-out in Saturday’s edition of The Weekend Advertiser.
Cr Hayes wrote in the column about supporting a new primary school at Estella and his efforts during the Wagga byelection to reopen the Collingullie Public School.
Fellow councillor Tim Koschel said he believed Cr Hayes had used council resources in a way that had potentially broken the councillor code of conduct.
“I made a complaint direct to the mayor and the general manager expressing my disappointment that it was allowed to go to print,” Cr Koschel said.
“I don’t have an issue with people talking about schools but when you have said you are running in the state election and then used a council resource to talk about what you have campaigned for, that’s a different thing.
“It’s just an unfair advantage ahead of other candidates. (Wagga MP) Dr Joe McGirr or any of the other candidates can’t write a councillor column.”
‘Council News’ is an advertising supplement that is distributed in The Weekend Advertiser as part of a commercial arrangement with Wagga City Council.
Cr Hayes said he had been advocating for the community and not campaigning with his column.
“This criticism has been thrown at me since day one of being on council,” Cr Hayes said.
“I believe I have shown time and time again my passion for the role of a councillor and advocating for the community and this is another example.
“The supporting infrastructure (for schools) is in the council’s domain but some people would rather spend time talking about other councillors than the community.”
Saturday’s edition of Council News was still accessible as of early Monday afternoon via the council’s website.
“At the byelection in September last year I advocated to keep the (Collingullie Public) school from being sold off and encouraged a plan to be created for it to be used as a facility for the community as we look at increasing the population at Collingullie,” Cr Hayes wrote in the column.
Mayor Greg Conkey said he did not read any of the councillor columns prior to publication.
“I believe that is a right a proper thing; it’s not my role to censor what councillors say,” Cr Conkey said.
“I certainly don’t believe that any councillor should be using the column for political advantage.
“Having said that, I don’t know whether this particular column overstepped the mark or not.”
Cr Conkey said he would review the column but acknowledged he had used columns to criticise the state government, in what he said was a non-partisan manner, over cost shifting.
“All councillors need to sit down and have a conversation about what they believe as a whole is acceptable or not,” he said.
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