Almost four years after he was removed from the city's top job, Alan Eldridge's accusation that he was unfairly sacked is now playing out in the Wagga Supreme Court.
Mr Eldridge's four-year contract as Wagga City Council's general manager - a job worth just shy of $400,000 a year - was terminated on May 29, 2017. He was appointed to the role a little over a year earlier, following a six-month stint as interim GM.
The decision to terminate Mr Eldridge's employment, effective immediately, was announced after a closed-door, extraordinary meeting of the city's councillors.
He went on to be appointed special administrator of Mungabareena Aboriginal Corporation in 2017, after he left Wagga Council.
Mr Eldridge's legal team says whether the council had a proper basis to dismiss him is the central issue in the Supreme Court case.
The council alleges Mr Eldridge engaged in significant breaches of his contract and his dismissal without notice was justified.
Mr Eldridge is claiming damages for the breach of his contract and is asking for $1,159,452.05 - the salary he would have earned for the balance of his four-year term.
Both Mr Eldridge's and the council's submissions were submitted in the form of written documents, rather than being delivered verbally to the court.
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In its submission, the council said the breaches of the contract centre around Mr Eldridge's "persistent failure to disclose or manage his conflicts of interest, in particular related to land development applications".
It alleges Mr Eldridge was the managing director of a group of companies, including E Properties that owned the trading name for Eldridge First National Real Estate - a business managed by his son.
The document states when Mr Eldridge was appointed as GM he assured then mayor Rod Kendall he had ceased all involvement with his real estate businesses. However, the council alleges Mr Eldridge's first pecuniary interests disclosure, in 2015, failed to disclose his interests in three corporate entities, including E Properties.
In his submission, Mr Eldridge said he "did not appreciate that it was necessary to disclose all shareholdings in companies as well as companies in which he held directorships" and that he did not benefit from any of the three entities.
In relation to the alleged failure to disclose pecuniary interests, Mr Eldridge said he lodged a Key Management Personnel Declaration with the council in 2016 and believed he had complied with his obligations.
One of the main conflicts of interest was Mr Eldridge's son's involvement in a property development at Gumly, which was subject to an application for rezoning from farmland to housing.
Questions were raised by TheDaily Advertiser in February 2017 about the former GM's interest in the Inglewood Estate proposal and subsequently reported by this publication.
Mr Eldridge was stood down pending an independent investigation. Council later resolved to dismiss him without notice.
The council also alleges Mr Eldridge sought an upgrade to Inglewood Road, which would benefit the proposed Gumly development. The council further alleges documents reflecting this were later altered to show another person as the authoriser.
Mr Eldridge's legal team said he was not aware of any application concerning the development was or had been before the council, adding it had been lodged with the council under the names of the four landholders and an agency representing them in Sydney. "In any event, as general manager Mr Eldridge did not deal with the application," it said.
In summarising its defence, the council said Mr Eldridge was provided with "a significant salary and associated perks", and he was "expected to dedicate himself to the job".
The defence claims the former GM's failure to dedicate himself to the job in circumstances where his conduct was "unexplained and unauthorised, obviously inappropriate and linked to conflict of interest difficulties ... constituted serious misconduct justifying his summary dismissal".
"The general manager of a council is the most senior employee with serious responsibilities to council and the general public," it said.
"They are correctly, and necessarily, held to a high standard in respect of their personal and professional obligations."
The council's defence claims Mr Eldridge's behaviour was "entirely inconsistent with these obligations and constituted serious misconduct".
The hearing, before Supreme Court Justice Andrew Bell, is expected to continue until the end of next week.
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