TWO leading contenders for the city's mayoral election have exchanged barbs in an escalation of tensions ahead of next week's poll.
Former mayor John Dal Broi has accused incumbent mayor Mike Neville of tarnishing council's name by running while Councillor Neville claimed a vote for Mr Dal Broi would be a "step back in time".
In what is shaping up as the most intriguing battle of the election, both men are unlikely to repeat the ballot box success they enjoyed at the peak of their political powers.
Cr Neville's political future became shrouded in controversy when he was arrested on sexual assault charges in 2010.
Less than two years earlier, Mr Dal Broi's credibility took a blow when his business, Dal Broi Wines, collapsed.
"He (Cr Neville) shouldn't be running and that has nothing to do with me not wanting the competition," Mr Dal Broi said.
"I can only go on what I have read about the trial, but it is serious stuff and, while I have no personal beef with Michael, I don't think he should have stood for the benefit of the position going forward."
Cr Neville was the city's first popularly elected mayor in 2008, but prior to the new regime, was also chosen as leader by his own colleagues.
Meanwhile, Mr Dal Broi has had 26 years of council experience, elected mayor 16 times by his fellow councillors.
But he has been out of the game for four years.
Cr Neville said Mr Dal Broi's election would ruin council's momentum, creating an unnecessary setback while he settled in.
"John has given 26 years service but he chose to walk away," Cr Neville said.
"In my view his time has now passed and people are keen to move forward.
"It's important to know when your time is up."
Mr Dal Broi admitted he lost focus in his final 12 months on council and hoped to make up for it with another four-year term.
But Cr Neville said his main rival was not the right man for the job.
"While I don't want to delve into the past, he obviously has a litany of debt behind him and my view is that the community don't need that," Cr Neville said.
"Some might say, given his background, he has poor fiscal management.
"It's important that the person in the role looks after the community as best they can and I feel I am in a better position to give them that."
Mr Dal Broi criticised the current council for its denial of the existence of factions, a lack of transparency and failure to rectify its dismal financial position.
He said Cr Neville's re-election would only mean "more of the same" for the city.
"Michael has had four years now and, while his council can claim some success in some areas, I don't think enough has been done," Mr Dal Broi said.
"The community hospital has really been driven by the Casellas and Spagnolos, City Park is wonderful but heaven forbid they do anything to reroute the B-doubles and road trains going past it, and I'm not impressed with the way they've handled the whole Murray-Darling Basin issue.
"On top of that, if Michael is re-elected, he can't help but be preoccupied with his own personal issues."
The community will decide the fate of both men when it goes to the polls on September 8.