Auburn Deputy Mayor Salim Mehajer has labelled allegations of electoral fraud a “political game” and an attempt to make him “step down”.
Mr Mehajer has been served a court attendance notice for February 2016 in relation to 77 charges, including 76 counts of using a forged document and one count of using a false or misleading statement.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said it received information from the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) in August 2012 – a month before local council elections in New South Wales.
Mr Mehajer told the ABC via text message the matter “revolved around the location and place of residence of my team running for the election”.
“If their case was strong, they would of [sic] not let me sit a day in council since 2012,” he said.
He also questioned why authorities failed to act earlier.
“I have sat for four years as Deputy Mayor, why didn’t they act earlier when the case was open and when I personally contacted the AFP many times in 2012, 2013 and 2014 to take this matter seriously and deal with it as priority?” he said.
“This is all a political game which has targeted Auburn Council as a whole (perhaps with some sort of ‘hidden agenda’), just like how we were confirmed to merge with Strathfield, Burwood and Canada Bay and now they are trying to merge us otherwise.”
He said politics was “a world full of hidden agendas, and in this case one to make me ‘step down'”.
Mr Mehajer is one of eight people in Sydney served court attendance notices by the AFP for alleged electoral fraud offences.
Calls for Mehajer to stand aside
New South Wales Premier Mike Baird said Mr Mehajer should stand aside until the matter is cleared up.
“I think, given the charges that have come forward, that individual should stand aside, pending the investigation of those charges,” he said.
Mr Baird said Auburn City Council was “part of an approach to be merged as part of a new entity”.
“Obviously we put forward a range of measures that we think strengthens local government. So, we are pushing ahead with those,” he said.
On Sunday the NSW Local Government Minister, Paul Toole, also said Mr Mehajer should consider his position and stand down.
Mr Mehajer made headlines earlier this year and was fined $220 for shutting down a street in Lidcombe for his lavish weekend wedding in August.