The lavish wedding of Salim Mehajer “got out of control”, the former general manager of the now-defunct Auburn council, in Sydney’s west, has told a public inquiry into misconduct at the council.
Former deputy mayor Mr Mehajer closed down a Lidcombe street for his extravagant 2015 wedding, making headlines around the country.
Mr Mehajer was denied permission to close the street for the wedding and reserve parkland for several helicopters, but he had contractors drop pamphlets in residents’ letterboxes, telling them they could not park their cars on the street.
Former general manager Mark Brisby told the inquiry residents complained about the wedding after finding Mr Mehajer’s behaviour both “serious and a concern”, while others found it “outright humorous”.
“It was what it was, the wedding got out of control,” he said.
Mr Brisby also said he did not question changes to a South Auburn planning proposal, despite knowing Mr Mehajer, a property developer, would benefit from the move.
In 2015, Auburn council staff proposed rezoning the development, despite draft studies supporting the existing proposal.
Mr Brisby told the inquiry while he did not think the rezoning made sense, he “had faith” in the report prepared by his staff.
Council did not pursue ex-mayor over alleged illegal development
Mr Brisby was also the director of planning when the council received legal advice to prosecute former mayor Ronnie Oueik’s building company, BBC Constructions, for alleged breaches of the Australian Building Act.
BBC Constructions was given council approval in 2001 to develop an Auburn unit block into 12 three-bedroom apartments and 29 two-bedroom apartments.
However, an inspection of the block carried out in 2008 revealed 24 of the approved two-bedrooms units were actually converted into three-bedroom apartments.
The change meant the company paid less in developer contributions, but made more money by selling larger units.
It also meant many people were suddenly living in units that did not comply with regulations.
It was not until the council was suspended earlier this year, and an administrator appointed, that any legal action was launched against the company.
Mr Brisby told the inquiry he believed the responsibility to prosecute Mr Oueik fell onto general manager John Burgess because the development involved an elected member of council.
However, the inquiry heard evidence of a closed meeting in 2009, in which acting general manager Peter Fitzgerald allegedly directed Mr Brisby to carry out the prosecution of Mr Oueik.
Mr Brisby denied being told to pursue legal action, and failed to take steps to pursue the prosecution of Mr Oueik once he was appointed to the role of general manager later in 2013.
He told the inquiry he assumed the matter had already been dealt with.