Is a councillor at Sydney’s Ashfield Council drinking on the job?

That’s the suspicion of some in town hall. So much so it was suggested a breathalyser be used at the next council meeting …

An anonymous mole posted Crikey a copy of draft minutes of the February 12 ordinary meeting. Amid routine council business (repairs of lifts, consultative committee meetings) was the “request” (helpfully marked with a lurid yellow highlighter) — which the general manager apparently took on notice. Investigations into council politics got increasingly murky.

The shire in Sydney’s west has been a hotbed of controversy for the past decade: from councillors hit with AVOs to claims of unauthorised brothels.

The councillor who requested the breathalyser, Julie Passas, is a minority Liberal on a council ruled by a coalition of independents and Labor. She told Crikey “one of the councillors is always drunk”. She isn’t saying who.

“It’s an issue of occupational health and safety,” she said. “Train drivers are breathalysed, so I don’t see why we shouldn’t be. We make decisions that affect people’s lives.”

There’s long been history of tension between Passas and Labor councillors. Former colleague Amanda Fazio (she’s now a member the NSW Legislative Council) called Passas in 2011 a “terrible scourge that has afflicted the Ashfield area … a homophobic, racist, irrational harridan”.

Labor councillor Alex Lofts calls the breathalyser motion “scurrilous”: “Councillor Passas is simply a muckraker. There has been a campaign to besmirch the council.”

But why? “I’m not sure,” he said. “Perhaps it’s linked to the state Liberal government’s push to amalgamate councils.”

Ashfield Council gave Crikey a statement:

“At the council meeting of February 12 2013, Clr Passas requested that ‘a breathalyser be at the next meeting’. Preliminary costings have been sourced but Council is not aware of any present circumstances that establish a need for this equipment.”

The council meets tomorrow at 6.30pm. At this stage, nobody will be asked to blow in the bag.