Mayor appoints former Mosman GM to act while David Backhouse takes leave

The article on SOS Facebook Page -the mayor claims it misrepresents him

Viv May, former General Manger of Mozman Council, has been appointed to act in the role in Strathfield during the absence of David Backhouse.



Mr Backhouse, who has been with the council for 27 years, will return on February 15 after breavement leave over the deaths of his mother and brother-in-law.

Mayor Sang Ok won the right to appointed an acting GM following a bitter and emotional debate over the absence of Mr Backhouse during the Christmas break.

Mayor Sang Ok was accused of using his family deaths to “get rid of Mr Backhouse” – a claim he vehemently denied. 

But later, sources suggested the mayor had become concerned about the fate of the council following an ultimatum issue to Auburn and North Sydney - two councils facing possible suspension.

Strathfield faced an investigation over governance last year, and has undertaken to improve procedures and report on progress to the Office of Local Government.

At an extraordinary meeting, councillors voted on a mayoral minute maintaining the mayor or deputy mayor should be able to appoint an acting general manager temporarily if the position is vacant, or the general manager is suspended from duty, sick or absent. 

Cr Ok maintained there was considerable confusion as to who had the power to appoint an acting general manager when the office holder was on leave. 

He said he had not been told who was replacing Mr Backhouse during his absence over the Christmas break, nor that another senior official was also on leave, meaning a more junior manager took the role.

“I received a message from the PA that unfortunately his mum passed away. This is the first time I heard his brother-in-law passed away.

“ I wasn’t informed about his personal situation.  I sent a message of condolence”

Independent councillor  Helen McLucas and Labor’s Daniel Bott spoke out angrily against the move.

Cr Helen McLucas claimed this was the mayor’s “second attempt to get rid of the general manager” following a similar motion on December 15.

Cr McLucas maintained the Mayor had not contacted Mr Backhouse, who was returning to work on Monday.

“His mother died.  His brother in law died all within a week.  You are taking this matter up again?  Why wouldn’t you show the courtesy to the general manager of speaking to him on such an important issue.”

She said the Mayor had lined up a successor who had later worked on the amalgamation issue, and that finding a temporary replacement would waste ratepayer’s money.

Cr Bott added that Corporate Services Director Neale Redman was standing in,  and he had 38 years of  government experience.

“You are using the death of someone’s mother for your own advantage.  The mayor is using the death of the general manager’s mother to his advantage,” he said.

Cr Ok demanded he withdraw the remark, but Cr Bott refused.

At one point, Cr Ok warned Save Our Stratfield co-chair Karen Pensabene for calling out from the public gallery, saying he could have her ejected.

The meeting voted four to two in favour of the mayoral minute, and a later motion meaning the move could not be rescinded was passed.

A move by Cr Ok to get agreement that talks be started with Burwood and Canada Bay councils over amalgamation was withdrawn by the mayor after protests.

Earlier, he had asked Save Our Strathfield to remove a picture of him taken at the Australia Day ceremonies from the organisation’s Facebook page, saying it misrepresented him.

It was published under the headline:  “Strathfield mayor stands together with Save our Strathfield to fight amalgamation proposal!”

Cr Ok said in an email: “You are deceiving the residents with my photo by writing I fight against the amalgamation with SOS. I have never agreed to what you have written at any time.”

He maintained SOS asked him to pose because he was possibly the last to hold the office of Strathfield mayor.


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