Calls for Shellharbour Deputy Mayor to step down

Opponents of the Shellharbour City Hub development are calling on the city's Deputy Mayor to step down after he threatened a speaker at a heated public meeting.

Liberal-turned-independent councillor Paul Rankin was one of a handful of people who turned out at Oak Flats on Sunday with a positive view of the $57 million proposed development.

The meeting was arranged by anti-hub councillors Kellie Marsh and Peter Moran and attracted about 200 similarly opposed residents.

Speaking for Stop the Hub Committee, 82-year-old Liberal party member Harry Gooden suggested council should fix existing infrastructure before pursuing the development, which would be funded by the sale of council assets and a loan of up to $16 million.

Cr Rankin disagreed, and later he grew agitated.

"What he actually said was while wagging his fist at me 'You are an idiot Harry and I'm coming after you, you watch me mate'," said Mr Gooden.

"I took that as strong threat and have contacted the police ...

"He's the Deputy Mayor and to speak to me in that threatening and intimidating way is unacceptable. He should step down."

Mr Gooden said he had written to council's general manager asking that Cr Rankin be stood down. He declined to say whether police were likely to act on his complaint.

"I am very perturbed by this man's actions, my wife is also very perturbed. The rage he was in at the meeting, he's capable of doing anything. There are many people taking up my cause."

Cr Rankin denied Mr Gooden's version of the threat, but would not tell the Mercury his exact words.

He said he reacted after the crowd "booed and wouldn't even give the time of day" to pro-hub councillors David Boyle and Helen Stewart; and after Mr Gooden spoke "untruthfully".

"He [Mr Gooden] lied to the people that were there. When questioned about whether [councillor and former Mayor] Kellie Marsh supported the rate rise he just didn't answer that question at all. He knows that Kellie Marsh was for a rate rise when she was Mayor."

Mr Gooden and Cr Rankin both stood on the same Liberal Party ticket at the 2011 council elections.

Cr Rankin later resigned from the party after facing a suspension for not supporting fellow Liberal Cr Marsh.

Cr Rankin said internal Liberal Party issues were behind the tension between himself and Mr Gooden.

"He is still bitter I didn't support Kellie Marsh," Cr Rankin said.

"It was a very heated meeting. Did I say something I shouldn't have said - probably, but that's just what happened.

"I won't apologise."

In an account of the incident provided to the Mercury by an anonymous caller, who described himself as a Warilla resident connected to Stop the Hub Committee, Cr Rankin was "screaming ... with his eyes back in his head".

"I couldn't believe it was the same fellow," the man said.

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