Just 10 months after he was re-elected to Campbelltown Council in September 2016, Ted Rowell decided to call it quits.
Both he and his wife Yvonne had become seriously unwell and it was decided they would focus exclusively on their health.
Cr Rowell, who was very popular with the companion animal community because of his unstinting efforts to improve conditions at council’s animal care facility, reluctantly offered his resignation.
“I did offer to resign both verbally and in writing,’’ Cr Rowell told the South West Voice in Macarthur yesterday.
“But the general manager and the mayor told me they did not accept my resignation.
“If a byelection was held it would cost the ratepayers a lot of money, around $700,000.
“It was suggested that I could take extended leave of absence, which would mean I could return to council if my health and that of my wife improved.
“So I agreed and that’s what happened,’’ Cr Rowell said.
He says one of the reasons he agreed to seek leave of absence instead of resigning was out of respect for the mayor, George Brticevic.
“I have to say that he’s one of the best Labor people I’ve ever met,’’ says Cr Rowell, who has been on council since 2012.
“I have a lot of respect for George Brticevic and I really think he’s doing a great job as mayor.’’
Campbelltown Council had already faced the massive cost of a by-election just a few months earlier on March 18, 2017 to fill the vacancy caused by the sudden death of another councillor, Fred Borg.
Two by-elections in one year would have meant a $1.4 million hole in the council budget.
It’s now almost a year since Councillor Rowell was granted a leave of absence by the council.
The resolution was tabled at the council meeting of August 8, 2017 and was moved by Ted Rowell’s Liberal Party leader Councillor George Greiss and seconded by Councillor Paul Lake. It read:
That Councillor Ted Rowell be granted a leave of absence from incorporating all Council meetings from Tuesday 22 August until further notice and without pay from the 1 September 2017.
Cr Rowell is reluctant to discuss the specifics of his and his wife’s illnesses, except to say they’re serious.
“I’d rather not go into that, but I can tell you that I am not well and my wife is even more unwell.
“One of my brothers died in the last six months; this had been a very hard 12 months for us, but we are fighting hard and hoping and praying that we will get better,’’ he says.
“I really miss council, my heart is still there and I’d love to be still there contributing.
“Residents still sometimes contact me with issues and I pass them on.’’
Cr Rowell, who is the father of Wollondilly MP Jai Rowell, says he also no longer lives in the area.
“Yes, we have moved,’’ he says.
An Office of Local Government spokesman told the Voice in Macarthur that under the NSW Local Government Act a councillor is not disqualified from holding civic office because they cease to be a resident in the area.
“Under the Act a civic office becomes vacant if a councillor is absent from three consecutive ordinary council meetings without being granted leave by the council.
“Whether or not to grant a councillor leave is a matter for the individual council,’’ the spokesman said.
Cr Rowell says he plans to write another resignation letter and send it to the mayor and the general manager.
“Once the 12 months since I was granted leave is up I will offer to resign,’’ he says.
“I think it’s the right thing to do and it’s up to them to decide whether to accept it or not.’’