Neil Reilly and Ann Sudmalis have become embroiled in a spat via media release over a series of questions asked by Shoalhaven City Council general manager Russ Pigg.
Mr Pigg last week sent out a letter to all Gilmore candidates asking them what their commitments were on the upgrade of the Princes Highway, funding of regional development programs to address the Shoalhaven’s high unemployment, and ongoing roads funding.
In an email to Mr Pigg and members of the media on Monday, Labor candidate Mr Reilly refused to answer the questions, claiming the actions of Shoalhaven Mayor and retiring Gilmore MP Joanna Gash had put the council in a biased position.
Mrs Gash is Ms Sudmalis’s campaign manager and also appears on election posters around the region, which Mr Reilly said had ‘‘politicised the council’’.
‘‘I think Russ Pigg has been put in a very uncomfortable position,’’ Mr Reilly told the Mercury.
‘‘I believe the council ...has been highly compromised and politicised by the actions of their mayor. She has compromised herself by allowing her image and an endorsement of a Liberal candidate to be on all [Ann Sudmalis’s] posters.
‘‘I have no problem with that alone, but when the council she leads asks me direct questions, I am suspicious about how my answers will be interpreted, and I am not confident that they will be interpreted without bias.’’
Ms Sudmalis hit back at these claims in a media release, calling Mr Reilly a ‘‘sook’’ and accusing him of whingeing.
‘‘Instead of outlining his policies and committing to the Shoalhaven community, the Labor candidate for Gilmore yesterday started whining to the media about the apparent bias of questions sent to every media outlet and candidate in Gilmore,’’ she said.
‘‘There can be no question of bias from Mr Pigg, so I strongly suggest that Mr Reilly stop being such a sook and focus on making things easier for the people of Gilmore for once.’’
In an email sent to Mr Reilly as well as media contacts, Mr Pigg rejected the assertion his council was biased, saying he had a ‘‘leadership role to play in lobbying all levels of government and advocating on behalf of the community’’.