A family spokesman has confirmed embattled Dubbo mayor Ben Shields is on life support in intensive care after a medical episode.
A family spokesman has confirmed embattled Dubbo mayor Ben Shields is on life support in intensive care after a medical episode.

Mayor in coma after calls to resign

The mayor of Dubbo is in a coma fighting for his life after a bruising verbal battle with a group of fellow councillors who called for his resignation.

In news that has shocked the famous regional city and surrounding communities, Councillor Ben Shields was rushed by ambulance to Dubbo Base Hospital on ­Wednesday, where he is on life-support.

"I have only ever done what is right for Dubbo," he wrote on Facebook just minutes before an ambulance had to be called for him.

Dubbo Regional Council Mayor Ben Shields in the city’s Victoria Par. Picture: Dylan Robinson
Dubbo Regional Council Mayor Ben Shields in the city’s Victoria Par. Picture: Dylan Robinson

Earlier that day he received a letter signed by six councillors calling for his immediate resignation and accusing him of bullying and "intolerant ­behaviour".

A family spokesman on Thursday confirmed Cr Shields, 40, remains in a critical condition and his prognosis is ­uncertain.

Cr Shields has spoken of a difficult three weeks at Dubbo Regional Council in which he became embroiled in a row over an alleged mishandling of a multimillion-dollar proposed Bunnings development at the city's former RAAF base.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Lawrence and councillor John Ryan accused Cr Shields of failing to follow consultation protocols over the proposed development and joined a collective call for him to resign.

A letter dated 31 March ­addressed to the council chief executive officer and signed by councillors, including Cr Lawrence, states colleagues had lost confidence in the mayor and that his position was no longer tenable.

"The council condemns and will not tolerate abuse of power, bullying, harassment, threats and intimidation," it states, urging anyone who had "inappropriate interactions" with him to come forward.

"The council has no confidence in the mayor and calls upon him to resign immediately as mayor and from council and enable council to move forward in the best interests of the community," the letter states.

Cr Stephen Lawrence.
Cr Stephen Lawrence.

One of the proposed ­motions asked for a confidential report to be prepared for councillors "advising on any and all complaints, allegations and suggestions of misconduct on behalf of the mayor that have any stage of the term of council been brought to the attention of any council staff and not been the subject of a code of conduct process".

The letter also called for an extraordinary meeting of the council in seven days if Cr Shields failed to hand over his mayoral robes, phone, car and office and step down as councillor.

Cr Shields on Monday had been criticised over a separate matter before council in which deputy mayor Cr Lawrence took aim over concerns about a press conference arranged to welcome the lodging of the DA and potential benefits it could bring to Dubbo.

"This is a controversial ­application, it's a part of Dubbo very dear to people … what the community's entitled to expect from council is that council is fair and balanced, and council is the guardian of the public interest," Cr Lawrence told ABC Western Plains.

"When you have a mayor standing with a property ­developer in a press conference … in circumstances where council is yet to consider the matter, you have a situation where public confidence in planning processes is being undermined.

"I think it's completely ­untenable that he stays as head of council in circumstances where his actions have undermined public confidence in our planning and DA processes." The call for the mayor to resign was backed by Cr John Ryan, who joined Cr Lawrence for the ABC interview and said the handling of the DA was not the only cause for concern.

Cr Ryan claimed Cr Shields gave councillors 20 minutes' notice of a proposal to give in-principle support to a sporting club's request to be given 10ha of Regand Park to construct new playing fields and sports facilities.

"The mayor is a bloke who loves Dubbo and he's done a lot of good things for Dubbo, but you cannot make decisions by yourself, you need to bring the councillors and the community along, you need a consensus," Cr Ryan said.

"I think everything is ­broken and we need to have a reset."

Cr Lawrence has since been appointed acting mayor of Dubbo.

Dubbo Council CEO Mic­hael McMahon confirmed he received a letter from councillors calling for an extraordinary meeting where a motion of no confidence in the mayor was likely to be moved.

"In taking into consideration the mayor's extended medical leave and appropriateness of ensuring the mayor is present for such a meeting, council has two weeks to ­arrange an extraordinary meeting and will have discussions with the six councillors to determine an appropriate date for that meeting," Mr McMahon said.

Hundreds of Cr Shield's supporters have taken to Facebook with messages of encouragement praising his work as mayor.

"If they really care about what's best for the people of the region they'd realise you've done more for us than anyone," Leah Bear wrote.

"What you have done for this town is amazing … you promote our beautiful town like no one before," Malinda Bateup said.

On Tuesday Cr Shields was defiant that he would not stand down.

Acting Mayor Cr Lawrence said: "The mayor is on indefinite medical leave, his family has asked that his privacy be respected.

"I want to assure the community that the day-to-day operations and service provision of council are continuing uninterrupted."

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 or visit beyondblue.org.au
Lifeline: 13 11 14 or visit lifeline.org.au

Originally published as Dubbo mayor Ben Shields in coma after calls to resign

Dubbo Regional Council CEO Michael McMahon.
Dubbo Regional Council CEO Michael McMahon.

Interactive: Where you can still get a house for $500k

Premium Content Interactive: Where you can still get a house for $500k

Here’s where you can still get a house for less than $500,000

Queen's sorrow as PM sums up sadness

Premium Content Queen's sorrow as PM sums up sadness

Scott Morrison speaks to the Queen on Prince Philip's passing

Blue-eyed surfer becomes dad-of-50 in sperm bank glitch

Premium Content Blue-eyed surfer becomes dad-of-50 in sperm bank glitch

There are now fears he could have fathered dozens more