Here’s What It Takes for an Entire Australian City Council to Get Fired
A celebrity photographer turned reality TV star turned mayor is facing calls to resign amid accusations he bullied his staff.
In 2011, Australian television personality Darryn Lyons joined “Celebrity Big Brother,” a British TV show that follows a group of famous people on surveillance cameras while they share a custom-built house and the public slowly votes each one out.
It took Lyons — who walked around showing off a massive gut adorned with six-pack abs that looked like they’d been drawn on with a sharpie — all of 22 days to be kicked out of the house. (He later proudly admitted he had spent thousands of dollars on cosmetic surgery that sucked out his stomach fat to create the faux six-pack.)
He might have come in sixth place on “Big Brother,” but he scored a big win two years later when the good people of Geelong, Australia, population 180,000, inexplicably elected him mayor despite his lack of any political experience.
“I’ve also seen from Tony Abbott’s example that the electorate respects a man with great abs,” he said on the campaign trail in 2013, referencing the then-prime minister who was ousted by his one of his own ministers last September.
Abs or no abs, Lyons has lasted as mayor longer than Abbott did as prime minister. But his run may be coming to an end: On Tuesday, the state’s local government minister, Natalie Hutchins, introduced legislation that would fire him and his entire council. If signed into law, an unelected administrator will be appointed to run the city until the next mayoral election in 2020.
The move followed an October report by the Commission of Inquiry into Greater Geelong City that found Lyons had implemented a culture of bullying and belittlement in his hometown, where “the mayor and a significant number of councillors have regularly intimidated, abused and sworn at staff, often in the presence of others, in the pursuit of their own interests.”
In one incident outlined in the report, a pregnant employee complained about a lack of ventilation in her workplace and a council manager used an axe to cut holes in her walls. “Ventilation, I will give you fucking ventilation,” she claimed he said at the time
Another former employee said the abuse was so severe she started questioning the value of her life. “It destroyed me, I was suicidal,” she told the commission.
All-in-all, 150 bullying complaints were filed in a matter of just 12 months.
Lyons, who did not ditch his signature mohawk when he took over the mayorship in 2013, told Melbourne radio station 3AW Tuesday that his government was not dysfunctional.
“It’s business as usual, as far as I’m concerned [and] I will be going about my business loud and proud,” he said.
One reason he might not be fazed? This isn’t the first time he’s been asked to resign. Last year, protesters demanded he step down after he was caught on camera wearing a t-shirt that said “Gas, grass or ass, no one rides for free” next to a photo of Madonna.
This time, the demands are a bit more formal. The Victorian lower house passed the legislation to dismiss Lyons Tuesday, and it will now head to the elected body’s upper house for final approval.
Image credit: MICHAEL DODGE/Getty Images