CLOVER’S POWER PLAYS

De­part­ing deputy Phelps hits out at mayor’s au­to­cratic rule

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - - Front Page - JEN­NIFER SEX­TON

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.

Pic­ture: Justin Lloyd

De­part­ing Syd­ney Deputy Lord Mayor Ker­ryn Phelps.

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