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31 running mates AN all powerful ''Liberal leaning'' group of Port Stephens councillors has been called on to resign amid revelations members used an intricate web of preference deals to take ray ban ???? control at the last local government election.

The calculated numbers game, never seen on such a scale in Hunter local government elections, cemented multi millionaire mayor Bruce MacKenzie's leadership and helped deliver seven of 10 council seats, and a solid voting majority. A Newcastle Herald investigation can reveal the group, spearheaded by Cr MacKenzie and Port Stephens' Liberal party president Steve Tucker, had links to 29, or almost half, of the September 2012 election candidates. Those 29 have been confirmed by the MacKenzie camp. If members of deputy mayor Sally Dover's ticket are counted, which preferenced MacKenzie team members, 32 of the 66 so called independent candidates were aligned. Full disclosure ray ban sunglasses at lowest price of the behind closed doors planning has led to claims voters were ''duped'', as well as that dummy candidates and groups were used to farm preferences. But Cr MacKenzie said he acted in the best interest of Port Stephens and voters would have been ''dumb'' and official ray ban ''can't read'' if ban sunglasses they didn't know what was going on. ''We have the most prosperous and go ahead council in the Lower Hunter and I'm very, very pleased with its make up,'' he said. Residents and opposition candidates claim people were led to believe they were voting for "truly independent" candidates, rather than a ''pro development ticket''. Cr John Nell, an ALP party member who has voted with the MacKenzie faction numerous times since taking office, said while there was ''nothing illegal'' about what happened, collusion between so many groups was ''devious''. ''I think it was really stupid and believe it could cost them a lot of goodwill,'' he said. ''The general public would have believed the candidates were independent and they weren't.'' Described by the mayor as ''very like minded'' and the ''best council I've seen in 44 years'', the independent councillors have voted as a bloc 99per cent of the time since taking office, at times in controversial circumstances. Spokesman for the community group Voice of Wallalong and Woodville, Bob Beale, said the ''secret'' deals had alienated many voters and he called for those involved to resign. ''It is fair to ask, as many voters do, what the participants had to hide, whether they would have been elected if they had told the truth, and in whose best interests they have been acting,'' he said. Cr MacKenzie also issued a flier before the election which many opponents said they did not see identifying his ''team to achieve'' in which he was photographed with the heads of eight other groups. According to Cr Tucker, the disciplined strategy was brokered at a meeting with fellow Liberal party member Cr Ken Jordan and Cr MacKenzie months before the election. Cr Tucker said the group had done nothing wrong. It simply worked within an ''imperfect system'' and identified the best way to ensure a voting majority was through disciplined preference swapping agreements with as many groups as possible. ''There was not too much arm twisting to bring them [other candidates] in with us,'' he said. Cr Tucker said there was no pressure for councillors to vote with the mayor on issues, but described the group, the same Cr MacKenzie did, as ''very like minded''. ''We don't always agree with Bruce MacKenzie, but most of the time we do,'' he said. All 10 elected councillors sit in the chamber as independents, but in reality the makeup is more complicated.

Three councillors are members of the ALP (Geoff Dingle, John Nell and Peter Kafer) and seven part of the MacKenzie faction. To confuse matters, four of the MacKenzie aligned councillors are former or current Liberal Party members (Steve Tucker, Ken Jordan, Sally Dover and Paul Le Mottee), Cr MacKenzie is a former member of the National Country and Liberal parties, Chris Doohan is not a member of a political party and John Morello did not respond to requests for an interview. The Herald can also reveal that Port Stephens MP Craig Baumann gave his weight to the push for power by offering ''advice'' to a candidate in discussions about his group joining the MacKenzie alliance.

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