Ryde is full of complicated local politics, but clearly one of the most divisive issues has been the Ryde Civic precinct redevelopment, which split council and outed a whole bunch council officials who clearly didn’t give a rats about the community’s thoughts on the plan.
For the record, the scoreboard said: MORE THAN 3,000 submissions were received opposing it and just a MEASLY TWO were in support.
And despite the economic raw deal it represented for ratepayers, a couple of councillors and a former senior Ryde staffer still found a reason to aggressively, passionately, pursue the proposal.
You wouldn’t be so cynical to suggest that may have something to do with the big bucks that would have been thrown around if the project disastrously got the green light.
The former general manager at Ryde, John Neish, got to splash around more than $5m on a conga line of his overpriced, friendly and familiar consultants and lawyers and others (who charge with more ferocity than Spanish bulls), with not so much as a sod turned.
Mr Neish was so keen on pushing ahead with the dud Civic precinct proposal, he decided to cut off the anti-Civic proposal councillors from crucial communications.
He was ridiculously keen on that project. So much so that – faced with growing dissatisfaction from six of his twelve councillors, to whom he was answerable and news that he was going to be terminated – he managed to engineer an ICAC referral of hearsay evidence from a Civic redevelopment ally, based on questionable accounts of conversations three months earlier.
The only significance of those exchanges appears to be some sort of suggestion his job was under threat after a suggestion from a third party property developer.
Have I lost you yet? Well most fair thinking people who have either been forced to digest this bollocks or have voluntarily done so, are also lost when it comes to working out how ICAC came to taking this referral seriously.
Of course, when Mr Neish was caught misusing council resources and downloading porn using publicly-owned assets while cruising on a 360k pa ratepayer-funded salary, the teflon suit – that is, his ‘whistleblower’ protection – given to him by ICAC as a reward for his unconvincing referral, meant he couldn’t be sacked for doing what he – above all others – should have known was a clear breach of the rules.
Not only was he not sacked for his porn downloads, but he was given a 38-week golden handshake.
Worst of all – a dead of release, essentially a legal document allowing Ryde Council and Mr Neish to lie to the public and ratepayers about what had transpired prior to his departure.
That’s nearly $300,000 into his bank account after being caught downloading porn on a council-issued computer – something for which any other employee would expect to be frogmarched out the building.
In the meantime, he had engineered an ICAC witchhunt estimated to cost more than $30m, preoccupied with spurious claims of insignificant things like leaking of documents and supposed attempts to leak to media, details of Mr Neish’s close encounters of the porn kind.
This disgraceful ICAC inquiry was motivated by retribution, sabotage of political opponents and a blatant attempt to resurrect the disastrous and suspect civic precinct redevelopment.
If we can’t rely on the integrity of the justice system to right the wrongs of this attempt at smear and injustice by a Star Chamber, then what what on earth can we rely on?
The processes exist to remedy this disgraceful abuse of process by those who have been placed in positions of trust, responsibility and power by the public.
They should be held accountable not only for the criminality associated with these despicable acts, but for their selfish act of vandalism of ICAC and the long-term decay in the integrity of the system that results from a breach of public trust.
Watch this space.