Shellharbour City Council deputy mayor Paul Rankin has decided to quit the Liberal Party rather than serve a party suspension.
Cr Rankin was facing a suspension of between two and five years from the Liberal Party for breaking a signed agreement with head office to vote for fellow Liberal Kellie Marsh in the council’s mayoral vote.
Cr Rankin said he formally resigned from the party on Sunday night.
He would serve out the remaining three years of his term on council as an independent.
‘‘I’ll keep continuing to do my best on council,’’ Cr Rankin said.
‘‘I’m sure if I am not performing up to expectations the community will let me know.’’
In September Labor councillor Marianne Saliba was re-elected Shellharbour Mayor with the support of her two fellow Labor councillors, Cr John Murray and Cr David Boyle.
Shellharbour’s two Liberal councillors, Cr Rankin and Cr Marsh, both challenged for the position, splitting the non-ALP vote with independent Cr Helen Stewart voting for Cr Rankin and Cr Peter Moran backing Cr Marsh.
Cr Rankin was subsequently elected Deputy Mayor with the support of the ALP councillors.
The outcome mirrored the dramatic 2012 vote which saw Cr Saliba replace Cr Marsh as mayor.
Cr Rankin’s move was labelled ‘‘treacherous’’ by some Liberal Party members.
Three weeks later another mayoral vote was held in bizarre circumstances after concerns were raised that the September 17 mayoral vote was ‘‘not conducted strictly in accordance’’ with local government regulations governing mayoral votes.
Cr Saliba was again re-elected Shellharbour Mayor defeating Kellie Marsh by four votes to two, this time with Cr Rankin abstaining.
Cr Rankin maintained the reason he broke the signed agreement was because Cr Marsh had leaked details of the private agreement ‘‘to the Greens’’ prior to the vote taking place.
Cr Marsh said it was disappointing what has happened.
‘‘It was was his choice to leave the party,’’ Cr Marsh said.
Cr Marsh confirmed she has told Cr Moran the details of the agreement but did so for the purpose of lobbying for his vote.
Cr Marsh said she need to show Cr Moran she had Cr Rankin’s support following the events of the 2012 mayoral vote.