A Sydney councillor has been told to take out an advertisement in the Sun-Herald apologising to a Liberal colleague or potentially face a lawsuit.
The legal ultimatum to Lamborghini-driving former bodybuilder cum Fairfield Liberal Councillor Paul Azzo could see a judge rule on the truth of explosive allegations that he offered a party colleague an $80,000 bribe on Christmas Day.
It is the latest in a string of legal disputes miring members of the council in Sydney's south-west this year.
The claim against Cr Azzo was made by another Fairfield Liberal stalwart who was for a decade counted among Cr Azzo's closest political allies: Andrew Nguyen, 78, a former councillor and party candidate for the 2013 federal election.
In a complaint to police, Mr Nguyen alleged that Cr Azzo asked to meet him on Christmas Day at the Vy Vy Garden Cafe at Canley Vale.
Once there, Mr Nguyen alleged he was offered increasing bribes including four years' council salary – an amount equal to about $80,000 – in exchange for control of the party's crucial Edensor Park/Canley Vale branch.
Cr Azzo strenuously denied the allegations.
He told Fairfax Media that Mr Nguyen was either "delusional or a liar or both".
That response has now put him in the firing line for a potential defamation claim.
Mr Nguyen's lawyer is demanding that the councillor publicly retract the imputation including an advertisement in the Sun-Herald newspaper, which broke the story.
"Our client has, as a result, now been the subject of scandal, ridicule and contempt," a concerns notice, sent to Mr Azzo and senior Liberals earlier this month and leaked to Fairfax Media, reads. "Our client requires you to publish [a] retraction and apology in the Sun-Herald on pages six and seven."
Cr Azzo did not respond to a request for comment.
The episode emerges as the third simmering legal battle this year at a council whose members once included political assassin Phuong Ngo and which remains subject to claims of continued behind-the-scenes influence by corrupt former Labor powerbroker Joe Tripodi.
Fairfax can reveal two other councillors, Joe Molluso and Dai Le, have each agreed to a mutual undertaking to not use denigrating language towards each other.
That was an interim agreement that followed an application for a restraining order filed by Cr Le and which is set to come before a court for a hearing next month.
The two are set to appear before another court next week, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal, after Cr Molluso challenged Cr Le's eligibility to serve on the council and alleged she lived in Dulwich Hill, outside council boundaries. Cr Le denies living in Dulwich Hill.
Another councillor, Peter Grippaudo, was last month revealed by Fairfax Media to have applied via a company to develop 100 properties in three years, despite telling the electoral commission he was not a property developer.
Cr Grippaudo continues to deny he is a property developer despite at least one complaint being made to the Electoral Commission which said in a statement that it refuses to comment on cases it investigates.
Police are not believed to have acted on Mr Nguyen's complaint but a judge could now rule on the probable truth of either man's conflicting account of the meeting, which both acknowledge took place as part of defamation proceedings.
Mr Nguyen is also demanding a payment of $5000 as "solatium" for distress suffered as a result of the claim and further retractions, on page two of the local Fairfield Champion and to be read into the minutes of Fairfield Council.
Mr Nguyen is a retired building engineer and has served on the council and advisory boards to the Fahey government.
Cr Azzo is a former bodybuilder and Lamborghini enthusiast who serves as the director of companies including DFO Campbelltown Pty Limited and Babylon Developments.
Following a major split in the Liberal Party in Fairfield the Edensor Park/Canley Vale branch has the casting vote in party preselections, with two branches supporting Cr Azzo's camp and two backing other local Liberals.
Cr Azzo had said that the branch was already under the control of "members aligned to him". But the Liberals' state director has recently intervened and effectively returned control to Mr Nguyen.
A spokesman for the state director of the NSW Liberals, Chris Stone, said he was not available for comment on Thursday and he did not return a request for comment.
The story, Fairfield council's bribe allegation saga takes another twist as legal cases stack up, first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.