Acting mayor Stephen Lawrence has slammed local government minister Shelley Hancock for undermining the investigation of possible misconduct at Dubbo Regional Council.
Councillor Lawrence has written toNSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian regarding his "serious concerns" about comments made in the media by Ms Hancock.
In his letter, Cr Lawrence accused Ms Hancock of prejudging the recent issues at the council, threatening to use her statutory powers and potentially discouraging complainants coming forward to police.
Cr Lawrence told the Premier that Ms Hancock had suggested in a radio interview on April 13 that mayor Ben Shields had been the subject of "bullying and harassment" from councillors, which "had to stop".
He said Ms Hancock had told ABC listeners she had "never seen anything so appalling" and "would not sit back and let it happen", threatening "further action" against the council if it intended to go ahead with the motions in the mayoral minute proposed and accepted at the extraordinary meeting of council that day.
Ms Hancock also expressed similar concerns ahead of that extraordinary meeting in a letter to Cr Lawrence and interim council CEO David Frost.
"The government will be watching closely as the council holds an extraordinary meeting," Ms Hancock wrote to the council.
"I strongly urge councillors to act reasonably and get on with the job they were elected to do serving the local community."
Ms Hancock warned that she expected councillors to be committed to the high standard of behaviour required of people in local government, and held "great concern" for councils that did not act in the best interests of the community.
Speaking to the Daily Liberal this week, Cr Lawrence said Ms Hancock was addressing the recent events personally rather than from a professional standpoint.
Cr Lawrence was concerned that the Minister's statements on radio had potentially discouraged complainants from coming forward with their concerns, and alleged Ms Hancock's statements could be seen as a threat of reprisal against a person for making a police report.
"The Minister knew that complaints had been made including police referrals, and the Minister came out and did a media [interview] where she accused the councillors that had called upon the mayor to resign [because] of bullying," he said.
"She's made it pretty clear she's a friend of the mayor's and she's coming at this from a pretty personal perspective.
"What I'm saying is this is about the operation of local government in the Dubbo region, it's not about how particular people feel.
"The idea that statutory powers would be used against us at the moment I think is a really unfortunate and incorrect suggestion.
"This is a functional council we're providing services to the community and we've demonstrated [on Monday] we can meet as a group and make decisions and have debate.
"We really need to separate these issues from the very unfortunate medical situation of the mayor."
The Daily Liberal contacted the office of Local Government for a response. They did not respond before deadline.