CLOVER’S POWER PLAYS
Departing deputy Phelps hits out at mayor’s autocratic rule
OUTGOING Sydney deputy mayor Kerryn Phelps has revealed the extent to which she was “blindsided” by her power-hungry boss Clover Moore — who demoted her at public events, told her to stay away from the media and made it clear the role was only temporary.
“I was blindsided. It came as quite a shock to me,” said the respected former Australian Medical Association president, who was elected the No. 2 on Ms Moore’s independent party ticket.
Prof Phelps will not be seeking re-election for the deputy’s position at a meeting tonight.
BOMBSHELL revelations from Sydney’s respected deputy mayor Kerryn Phelps have lifted the lid on Clover Moore’s autocratic reign as Lord Mayor, where dissenting voices are silenced and transparency is blocked.
In an exclusive interview Professor Phelps has blown the whistle on the nightmare that began a year ago with a meeting five days after being elected the No.2 on Ms Moore’s independent party ticket and culminates tonight when she relinquishes the title of deputy mayor.
At the first of just two faceto-face audiences Ms Moore would grant the high-profile doctor once touted as her possible successor, the Lord Mayor said she knew Prof Phelps expected the role of deputy but “that was not going to happen”.
Ms Moore said the deputy mayor’s position would be rotated and Prof Phelps could have it for no more than one year. “I was blindsided,” Prof Phelps said.
In reality, Prof Phelps got the position in name only.
When Ms Moore was ill late last year and earlier this year, Prof Phelps found herself in the embarrassing position of being passed over to officiate at civic functions, including a homecoming ceremony for Paralympians and the openings of the Sydney writers’ and film festivals.
“It got very embarrassing because people kept coming up and saying to me, ‘I saw you at the event, how come you weren’t officiating’.”
Prof Phelps said she felt marginalised and disrespected and despite her high profile, the former president of the Australian Medical Association was dissuaded from talking to the media on matters related to Town Hall.
On one occasion Ms Moore demanded Prof Phelps pursue a retraction when she was quoted as being supportive of business.
Relations deteriorated when she sought a detailed breakdown of spending for the $3.6 million annual Lord Mayor’s office budget. As chair of the council’s finance committee, Prof Phelps said she received no satisfactory answers about what the Lord Mayor’s office money was spent on and the process behind how it was allocated.
“I am nobody’s rubber stamp,” Prof Phelps said.
She was soon dumped from the audit, risk and compliance committee of the Lord Mayor’s office.
Prof Phelps resigned from Ms Moore’s independent party in June but retained the position of deputy mayor. She will not seek re-election for the position at a meeting tonight, instead backing Liberal councillor Christine Forster’s nomination for deputy.
“Being on the ‘independent team’ has little to do with being independent.”
Ms Moore’s spokesman described the claims as “a desperate grab for attention ahead of the Deputy Lord Mayoral vote”. “The Lord Mayor did not make any kind of deal with Kerryn Phelps before the last election,” he said.
“They should have known diligence on the basis of any due into my background that I am nobody’s rubber stamp.” “Being on the independent team has little to do with being independent. I was definitely not welcome to express any kind of contrary opinion.” On Ms Moore’s suggestion that she wasn’t committed to the work: “just mean and nasty” and “very serious and false”. “It was scratching around for reasons why I would want to leave the party, rather than the real reasons. I think most people read it for what it was: sour grapes.”
Public image is not a reliable indicator of how a person may behave in private. Former prime minister Kevin Rudd, for example, was a perpetually smiling figure when he won office in 2007 but, as events showed, he was an often ill-tempered and demanding boss.
Likewise, many who think little of Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott might be surprised by just how engaging and warm those two can be in private conversation — even with each other.
One of the most reviled figures in US political history, the anti-communist Wisconsin senator Joe McCarthy, was similarly friendly in person, even with those who found his politics abhorrent.
Now Sydney’s deputy mayor Kerryn Phelps has offered insights about the challenges of working with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, whose public image — carefully built and maintained by a large team of staffers — is all about inclusiveness, democratic values and positivity. The reality, Professor Phelps told The Daily Telegraph, differs substantially.
“Being on the ‘independent team’ has little to do with being independent,” says Phelps, who was elected the No.2 on Moore’s independent party ticket before resigning from the party in June.
“I was definitely not welcome to express any kind of contrary opinion.”
At one point during her time as deputy mayor, which came to an end last night, Phelps sought a detailed breakdown of spending for the $3.6 million annual Lord Mayor’s office budget. This seems to be not just a reasonable course of action but also a democratically responsible one.
Unfortunately, Phelps apparently received no satisfactory answers to her questions about exactly what the Lord Mayor’s office money was spent on or how it was allocated.
“They should have known on the basis of any due diligence into my background that I am nobody’s rubber stamp,” Phelps said. Her persistence in seeking answers was followed by being dumped from the audit, risk and compliance committee of the Lord Mayor’s office.
As for that spending, Phelps now says: “It’s almost impossible to find any detail.” Considering the amount of ratepayers’ money involved, that should be a great concern.
Fortunately for the City of Sydney’s residents and businesses, Phelps will serve out the remaining three years of her council term, and continue seeking clarity on council spending.
Departing Sydney Deputy Lord Mayor Kerryn Phelps.