John Neish, Ryde’s general manager, who was terminated by council on July 23, 2012, but continued to loiter in its offices until Friday, 8th February, 2013, has at last left the building.
He clung on to his $360,000 pa gig by skilfully manipulating anti-corruption and common law provisions to claim protected person status and remain in his role.
Neish and Ryde Council have apparently “mutually agreed” to part ways. ‘Fishnets’ is understoood to be one nickname assigned to Neish by his detractors. Ryde Mayor, Ivan Petch, understandably thrilled to see the back of Neish, is understood to have generously provided him with a reference.
But while ICAC revels in its present high-profile, publicity-generating inquiries, it has been asleep at the wheel vetting and scrutinising Neish’s referrals.
Subsequent Supreme Court hearings have forced ICAC to declare its support for Neish’s protected person status, quite possibly allowing its investigative resources to be wasted and prolonging the suffering of four councillors targeted in the vexatious referall to ICAC of an email containing what are understood to be a collection of ‘hearsay’ allegations compiled by a Neish ally.
Of course, you don’t use sneaky legal tactics to preserve your job if you intend to stay put. But saveryde.com knows he would have had a pretty difficult time defending himself against what ultimately got him sitting down with the Mayor to negotiate his exit.
That protected person status came in rather handy – any other employee sprung doing what Neish had done, would unlikely have the luxury of a negotiation.
And what did he negotiate? A scandalous payout of more than $250,000 and a ‘deed of release’ document which gags both Neish and Ryde Council admitting or discussing the real chain of events leading to his departure.
But what could he possibly have done? Well readers, we desperately hope we’ll be able to let all of Sydney know some time soon!
Back to the wonderful scene at Ryde’s Civic Centre when Neish left the building, suddenly, or the very last time and as he was about to get to his car, Neish is photographed by a freelance journalist who asks if he has anything to say.
“Who are you?” asked Neish, before willingly posing – complete with a smile – for the camera.
“Ah just a freelance journalist,” the freelance journalist said. “Have you got any comment to make Mr Neish?”
“About what?” he asked.
“Any comment about the issue on which you’ve been doing presentations at universities – without telling anybody – along the lines of how elected councillors get in the way of the good work of council employees?” the journo asked.
“There will be a statement going out later today,” he says, with a sickening smirk of accomplishment.
Later today was spot on! About 6pm on a Friday, in the period known to be the worst time to distribute a media release, an agreed statement is issued to the two local newspapers and Sydney’s two major metro papers, the SMH and the Tele.
Suprise Suprise – it doesn’t seem to get a run, appearing only online on the Tele website and appearing in print in the SMH in an out-of-whack story written by a journalist who appears unable to grasp the detail and context of the Neish’s exit.
But hang on, haven’t we forgotten something? Neish didn’t have to go anywhere as a protected person, he could stay put and be safe in his overpaid position until the conclusion of what were expected to be lengthy ICAC inquiries. But while we know he was “sprung” – no one else does! So what about the credible reason for going?
There was no mention of any such thing in the agreed release and in a clumsy afterthought, Neish contacts his former PA in what appears to be a clear breech of his ‘deed of release’ and gets her to email to staff an amended release, this time including his exciting opportunity to join an old mate’s local government consultancy as a consultant.
It was a little strange, of course, that the opportunity wasn’t sufficiently exciting to claim its place in the original text announcing his departure.