The raft of allegations levelled at former mayor Ben Shields include that he threatened to cut off work on the cross-city pipeline to Taronga Western Plains Zoo in the midst of drought.
Current Dubbo mayor Stephen Lawrence publicly aired a number of allegations on Monday both on 2DU radio station and at a media conference later that day.
Mr Shields has strenuously denied the claims.
The allegations relating to the zoo were first raised on ABC radio earlier this year, when Dubbo MP Dugald Saunders went public with the claim Mr Shields threatened to cease work on the pipeline to the zoo in a phone call with Mr Saunders in 2019, unless Mr Shields was provided a spot on the board which governs the zoo.
The allegations resurfaced again this week by Cr Lawrence, among a range of others which the Daily Liberal has sought comment on.
Cr Lawrence also claims Mr Shields made the threat to the Dubbo zoo director Steven Hinks during a meeting.
"He (Mr Shields) threatened that unless he was put on the board - something the state government was delaying, that he would cut off work in the cross-city pipeline, this was at the height of the drought," Cr Lawrence said.
"That, at that time was a project that council was spending a lot of money on, it was in the context of the drought and was designed to ensure that the zoo...continue its operations.
"In my view that is blackmail, in my view that's corrupt, in my view it's criminal. It's currently being investigated."
Mr Shields issued a statement to the Daily Liberal saying the "accusation is absurd", and "at no stage did I ever threaten the water supply to the complex".
"For many years, both Dubbo and Mosman councils have had representation on the board of the Taronga Conservation Society," Mr Shields said. "In Dubbo's case it's usually the mayor.
"It's best to have the mayor being the representative and not just a councillor as the mayor has a more hands-on approach and knowledge of council."
Mr Shields said he did address the delay in appointing a council representative during a meeting, saying "a good working relationship remained between Dubbo council and the zoo", and "the cross-city pipeline was even being constructed by Dubbo council to the zoo".
"During one of these meetings, I said openly that this was amazing we can still get this happening despite not having a formal relationship in place," Mr Shields said.
"To be clear, at no time did I threaten to cut water off to the zoo. The very suggestion that I did is utterly incorrect. Other people at the meeting can verify this."
Mr Hinks issued a statement, which reads: "We've complied fully with the investigative process and it is our understanding that the process is still ongoing, so it would not be appropriate for us to comment."
Mr Shields claimed that he was told "there were powers higher up that were insisting on only having Cr Jane Diffey as the representative, however the councillors, like most councils beforehand wanted the mayor to be the representative".
In annual general meeting documents for the Taronga Conservation Society, which are publicly available on the Taronga website, the last Dubbo mayor listed as a representative was Allan Smith in the 2010 / 2011 term.
Since that time, then Dubbo councillors Greg Matthews and John Walkom were representatives on the board. Council CEO Murray Wood is the current representative on the zoo board.
Cr Lawrence also said, "Our professional staff have referred Ben Shields to the Independent Commission Against Corruption in respect to three matters".
The details of what those three referrals involve are not known.
Business papers tabled at the final ordinary meeting of Dubbo Regional Council last week stated that three complaints were provided to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
"Not one government department, not the police, not ICAC, not even the private investigator that Mayor Lawrence appointed has interviewed me - or even made contact with me," Mr Shields said. "The police are even on record saying no crime has been committed."
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