Dozens of family members and fans have packed a western Sydney council meeting to support embattled newlywed and deputy mayor Salim Mehajer – as he declares he’s not going anywhere.
Four councillors on Auburn City Council called an extraordinary general meeting for Wednesday night to urge Mr Mehajer to step down “in light of the continuing public outrage”.
Mr Mehajer shot to the headlines last month when he shut down a suburban Sydney street for his lavish nuptials, which included a fighter jet flyover, $50 million worth of luxury cars and an ARIA-award-winning wedding singer.
In a defiant message posted on his Facebook page before the meeting, Mr Mehajer wrote: “NO! I will not resign.”
Mums wearing hijabs turned up to Auburn’s civic centre with babes in prams; men wearing “Mehajer Bros” sweatshirts wove their way through the media contingent and a young woman in sky-high heels handed out flyers bearing the words: “Our voice, our choice”.
Once inside they packed into the public gallery and sat in stairways, where they cheered, heckled and shouted accusations of “tall poppy syndrome”.
Councillor George Campbell formally moved the unsuccessful motion calling on Mr Mehajer to stand down on Wednesday night.
He said he had been stopped in the street by residents furious about notes dropped in Lidcombe letterboxes before the deputy mayor’s wedding, warning neighbours not to park on the street.
And the council’s general manager told the meeting there had been 400 phone calls and nearly 300 emails from “disappointed” members of the public.
The NSW Local Government Minister Paul Toole, spurred on by questions about Mr Mehajer’s voting record, brushes with the law and mystery financial backers, has this week promised three-strikes laws to ban misbehaving councillors from holding office for up to five years.
The state government will also repeal a 2012 amendment that allowed councillors to vote on matters from which they stood to benefit financially.
The opposition wants to go further, by banning property developers and real estate agents from local councils altogether.
But Mr Mehajer was resolute, telling council that although he knew he had detractors, he believed most people were on his side.
“There’s no offence taken to that (motion), I think it’s quite valid,” he said.
“But I will be sticking by my community and for that reason I will not resign.”