Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore

Posted by & filed under City News.

City of Sydney councillors from across the political spectrum have supported the Alternative Media Group of Australia, publishers of this newspaper, after representatives of Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore threatened legal action over a story published in City News on September 5.

The story reported the experience of Surry Hills resident Luke Harper, whose 2011 development application (DA) for home improvements and renovations was rejected despite the City of Sydney’s own planners recommending its approval. The NSW Land and Environment Court subsequently overruled the decision.

Mr Harper alleged matters entirely unrelated to his DA had been taken into account – a belief supported by the unearthing of a Lord Mayoral briefing note on the DA, which identified him as “a key objector to the Bourke St cycleway” and which claimed his architects had “proven difficult for Council staff to work with in the past”.

As reported on September 5, Councillor Angela Vithoulkas has reignited the case with calls for an independent, external investigation.

The Alternative Media Group of Australia has since received a letter from lawyers representing Ms Moore alleging the City News report defamed their client.

Specifically, Makinson & d’Apice Lawyers took issue with Mr Harper’s published allegation that Ms Moore’s behavior was “unprofessional and corrupt”.

While Mr Harper made no allegation of financial corruption, he believes due process was corrupted.

The Makinson d’Apice letter stated: “We demand that you make amends in accordance with Part 3, Section 15 of the Defamation Act 2005.”

The letter insisted the Alternative Media Group of Australia remove Mr Harper’s allegations from its website, remove online comments made by members of the public, “publish a retraction and full apology in terms which are satisfactory to our client”, and give an undertaking “not to communicate the matters complained of or anything similar in the future”.

But the publisher has received strong backing from within Town Hall, with councillors of various political stripes expressing support.

Greens Councillor Irene Doutney said the Lord Mayor should not try to muzzle the media.

“Freedom of the press is important,” she told City News. “This issue has come up, and it should be reported without interference. It has to be as investigative as the journalists feel it needs to be.”

Ms Doutney admitted she initially voted with the Lord Mayor to reject Mr Harper’s DA in July 2011 but said she “did not have all the information” at the time.

“There is a problem in that information included in Lord Mayoral briefing notes is not shared with the other councillors,” she said.

At the opposite end of the political spectrum, Liberal Councillor Christine Forster also defended the Alternative Media Group of Australia’s right to report on the matter.

“As a journalist myself of more than 20 years’ standing, I think it’s crucial that the media is able to freely scrutinise and report on the operations, activities and decisions of the City of Sydney,” said Ms Forster.

Her Labor opponent Councillor Linda Scott also expressed support.

“I am deeply committed to the principle of press freedom,” said Ms Scott. “I attended this year’s Media, Arts and Entertainment Alliance Press Freedom Dinner, and strongly believe that the ability of Australia’s media to publish independently is a pillar that our democratic society rests on.”

Living Sydney Councillor Angela Vithoulkas said: “Freedom of the press is a vital part of a modern culture. Without it, there is the potential for abuse of power and misinformation.”

She added: “It is a very sad indictment on the process of consultation if the people of Sydney cannot make a comment on a proposed development without fear of possible reprisals.”

Liberal Councillor Edward Mandla opined that the Lord Mayor had overreacted to the City News article because the matter involved the City’s cycleways – a pet project of the Lord Mayor.

“My personal observation of the Lord Mayor is that she distances herself from the Planning Department and is reluctant to give them any direction. But I have noticed that whenever the topic of cycleways pops up, the eyes of the Lord Mayor and the Clover Moore Party councillors glaze over,” said Mr Mandla.

“It’s a mass ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ experience. Tempers flare and otherwise rational councillors go quite loony in fierce defence of their sacred bike path strategies – ironic for a group that are mostly incapable of cycling themselves.”

Mr Mandla called for a full, independent investigation into the matter, including interviews with ex-Lord Mayoral staff and former City of Sydney planners.

But a spokesperson for Ms Moore reiterated previous claims that the information in her briefing note had “no impact” on Council decisions.

“The staff member who initially included the irrelevant line in the note has not worked in the Office of the Lord Mayor for a number of years,” the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson would not say if Ms Moore was proceeding with her threatened legal action, but said any action would not be funded by ratepayers.

“The Lord Mayor looks after her own legal matters … as per guidelines in the Councillor’s Expenses Policy.”

Mr Harper said he had made submissions to NSW Local Government Minister Don Page and the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

He said similar DAs at nearby homes had been approved by Council “without having to resort to the Land and Environment Court”, noting that his DA for internal renovations, rear extensions, garage modifications, attic storage and an in-ground pool was initially rejected even though a neighbour’s DAs for rear extensions, garage modifications, attic storage and an in-ground pool was approved.

The neighbour’s architects were Cracknell and Lonergan – the same architects employed by Mr Harper, who had been described in the Lord Mayor’s briefing note as “difficult to work with in the past”.

“If you upset [the Lord Mayor] then the sort of abuses that we have been subject to are what you can expect,” claimed Mr Harper.

The Lord Mayoral spokesperson insisted Mr Harper’s DA was rejected due to numerous breaches of planning controls, and noted that the Land and Environment Court “did not criticise the City’s decision-making, nor was the City ordered to pay Mr Harper’s costs”.

The spokesperson welcomed ICAC’s involvement and said the City would also make submissions to the corruption watchdog.

“The claims being made against the City and the Lord Mayor are baseless and the Lord Mayor has asked the CEO to refer all material to ICAC so that can be confirmed.”

 

RELATED LINKS

Publisher responds to Clover Moore’s threats

Cycleway objection “irrelevant”, admits Lord Mayor’s office

Macdonald, Obeid fallout hits Town Hall

 

  • Peter Young

    Mr Harper says: “If you upset [the Lord Mayor] then the sort of abuses that we have been subject to are what you can expect”. Many others have experienced retribution from Clover Moore, and that statement would resonate with them. Fortunately, most on the receiving end have not been put to the expense, and delay, of going to Court to get what planning staff recommended, and what the neighbour got without hassle.
    It’s a sad day when process is abused, in order to pursue, what prima facie appears, to be a vindictive vendetta.

  • shayne chester

    I met with a few local power brokers in my bid to have a dedicated art market established in Embarkation Park for local artists and residents. I heard, “that is not a name you want to mention at City Council” quite often when I’d suggest locals that might be interested in helping. There must be quite a blacklist of “difficult to work with” people in The City’s view. I rather got the impression that to get anywhere, I’d best change my name. Politics is politics but when it obstructs progress or process it just becomes silly and petty.

  • Peter Young

    Proud to be on the “difficult to work with” list maintained by the Office of Lord Mayor at the City of Sydney.
    For me it’s more valuable to retain one’s ethics intact and freedom to act according to one’s conscience, than to abandon them, just to ensure one is not put on the black-list.

  • Michael

    Ive had a councillor tell me what the Council records say about me, dont imagine for a second that decisions arent made with reference to them!

  • Katy

    There are no costs orders applicable in the Land and Environment Court therefore costs cannot be awarded. If there was, Mr Harper would have been able to seek re-imbursement of his costs against the Council, given that he won on every point. The City’s line about not being ordered to pay Mr Harper’s costs is a clumsy attempt to suggest that it was a 50/50 case. Who is the Lord Mayor trying to fool, other than herself?

  • julie le strange

    There is a BIG, BIG difference in the original claim published by City News printing that Clover Moore is corrupt, a personal reference, to now backtracking by trying to say they meant something else, namely: “due process was corrupted”.

  • julie le strange

    The only reason the L & E Court did not criticise council’s planning process is that it is not within their jurisdiction when appealing a DA on its merits.
    But the court still found council’s decision wrong.
    Clover’s comments are a red herring.

    Julie

  • Jake McPherson

    Non-Clover councillors are trying to make big mileage out of this for political reasons.

    Anyone who knows the slightest scintilla about our laws knows there is no such as thing as an absolute “freedom of the press”.

    We do not have in this country a seemingly unlimited freedom, as distinct from America.

    We have defamation laws to protect people from vindictive press.

    Jake and Ellie McPheron

  • matt

    @ julie, whether she is corrupt or she is corrupting due process it’s the same thing. People always think corruption is about money but it can take many forms. If I was clover I’d be worried right about now, this is the kind of stuff that can bring down a local council.

  • matt

    Also, interesting to see clover now saying the lines in the briefing note was written by a staff member (yes, blame the staff) who hasn’t worked in the office for years. This only happened in 2011 so they worked there two years ago at the most – hardly ancient history!

  • Bob

    I am aware that the City of Sydney Planning Department recommended Luke Harpers DA for approval in the beginning. I am also aware that adjoining neighbours on one side of Luke Harper are in fact major supporters of Clover Moore. What we are hearing is the tip of the iceberg.

  • Andrew

    Clover Moore has approximately 26 staff in her office many of whom are involved in media relations. They are wall paper specialists papering over the cracks of a corrupt and nepotistic organisation where the CEO is basically working for Clover Moore and not the resident, business ratepayers of the City. We have all had enough of the dictatorship and the Clover Moorons.

  • Peter Young

    I am tired of the tactics of ‘diversion” used by the Office of Lord Mayor. Those tactics involve recitation of facts which misled the public, who are not expert in the area. Stating there were no cost orders or criticism of the City by the court leaves the public with the impression the Court found it all above board. Now we know the Court cannot make costs orders or criticise the original decision makers,we now know its failure to do so means didly-squat. The attempt to mislead the public has now been exposed.
    The staffer who wrote the report no longer works in the OLM. So what?
    The real question is whether there exists a culture in the OLM to write such reports (in order to bias Clover Moore team members against applicants) and whether such culture has been eliminated from the OLM

  • Seb of Darlinghurst

    Talk about making a mountain out of a molehill. Pretending to be concerned about a ratepayer is pathetic when it’s obvious your real agenda is exploiting the current political climate of misogyny. The Telegraph’s endless attacks on Clover are bad enough – to see the so-called “independent media” take their cues from Rupert Murdoch is just pathetic. I hope Clover sues the pants off you, unfortunately I doubt she will because she’s a productive, constructive person with better things to do than fight with trolls.

  • Michael

    Couldn’t agree more with Seb. How about writing decent stories instead of pretending Clover is Eddie Obeid disguised in drag?

  • Icarus

    I can sniff a pack of anti clover trolls banding together thinking they are finally onto something to bring Clover down .They could never beat her at the ballot, even the Premier of NSW had to invent some new legislation to get her out of the NSW Parliament.Now we have this motley conglomrant of anti Clover trolls trying to manufacture some scandal as if it is the Watergate break in.One of the many reasons Clover Moore is so admired by the majority of the constituents of Sydney and has never been beaten in an election in 25 years is the fact that she is uncorruptible.
    Never in a quarter of a century of public service even a whiff of scandal or corruption.That speaks volumes in itself.Shame on you sad people.

  • Andrew

    It all really comes down to why Mr Harper’s name as an objector came up when he lodged a DA to do some renovations to his house. Sounds like the Stasi of East Germany, make sure you don’t say anything that will anger the power base for fear of reprisals.

  • Nikki

    yes there are definitely trolls banding together now but I think you’ll find they are clover fans judging by the comments above. If clover is bullying people and getting their DAs rejected because they criticised her then she is NOT uncorruptable

    Also, good on Alternative Media group for allowing people to criticize them and being truly balanced- not like clover who goes running off to the lawyers!!!

  • overclover

    When the Greens, Liberal and Labor all agree on something, you know there’s something to it. What a PR disaster for Clover.

  • Margaret Ross

    Why is Clover Moore sending Rangers and NSW police to steal food,blankets and clothing from the 24/7 homeless resource centre in Martin Place? These things are all donated by the people for the people, its no good pretending we don’t have a homeless problem in our City because indeed we do and stealing from the homeless is despicable. MS Moore you care more about Rainbow bloody crossings than people.

  • Margaret Ross

    There have been 15 raids ordered by Clover Moore in the last few months and ALL property,food etc is removed(STOLEN) in garbage trucks and taken to Council depots for collection by the feed the homeless volunteers. Would you MS MOORE eat or use anything that was taken away in Garbage trucks I think not STOP STEALING FROM SOCIETY’S MOST VULNERABLE, these volunteers do with NO FUNDING what you and all your “Charities” cant do with MILLIONS of govt donations . Is that whats really getting up your nose?

  • Icarus

    Yes “overclover ” the greens , liberal and Labor all agree on something ….none of them have ever been able to beat her at the ballot box in 25 years …lol

  • matt

    Icarus – that’s an interesting name. From Wikipedia: “He ignored instructions not to fly too close to the sun, and the melting wax caused him to fall into the sea where he drowned. The myth shares thematic similarities with that of Phaëton—both are usually taken as examples of hubris.” Sounds a bit like your idol Clover to me.

  • Peter Young

    I am suspicious Icarus, Michael and Seb of Darlinghurst are employees in the Office of Lord Mayor at the City of Sydney, sent to astroturf this comments page.

    Who, other than a OLM staffer, who would find the behaviour of the OLM- in relation to Mr Harper’s DA – acceptable ?

  • Robert Atkins

    Seb and Michael have hit the nail on the head… Something is a bit odd about this. Why is the Alternative Media Group launching an all out attack on Clover Moore over a fairly trivial DA matter? In doing so, it is joining whingers with a chip on their shoulder over bike lanes, and the Daily Telegraph and Alan Jones!

    Nothing to do with Clover Moore directing her Council’s advertising to News Ltd? That’s most of it, but is there a persdonal agenda involved here too, Mr Publisher?

  • Lawrence Gibbons

    Robert: On Thursday 5 September we published a story on page 4 of the City News regarding calls for an enquiry into the controversial refusal of a DA in Surry Hills. We obtained and reported on comments from the Lord Mayor’s office. The end of the story quoted the applicant, Mr Luke Harper, as saying he considered Clover Moore to be corrupt. It was his opinion; not ours. The item did not run on our front page nor was it our lead story on our website that week. In response to the story, nine readers posted comments on our website. On Friday 6 September, the Lord Mayor had her lawyers send us a letter demanding that we remove the story along with the online comments, that we apologise and that we never run such a story again. Had Clover Moore not asked her lawyers to send us a letter of demand, the story would certainly not have appeared in this week’s print and online publications and in all likelihood would have been forgotten. The great irony is that by threatening libel, Clover gave oxygen to the story and drew more attention to the allegations of impropriety. For the record, this publication has nothing against the Lord Mayor, other than that we do not like being threatened. Over the years we have run a number of stories both positive and negative about Clover Moore from her days as the Local Member of Bligh through to the present. We think it is unfortunate that Clover Moore is hypersensitive to criticism, but we believe it is our job as an independent newspaper to report the facts and to report on a diverse range of opinions frankly and fearlessly. And we will continue to do so.

  • Katy

    Good on you Lawrence for having the courage to publish without fear or favour. The public is entitled to information so they can make up their own mind as to their opinion, whatever the topic.

  • John

    @ Robert Atkins: I think you’ll find the ‘all-out attack’ is more of an ‘all-out defence’ – Alt Media defending themselves against Clover Moore’s legal threats. Clover has changed since she became Mayor, that’s for sure. I can’t imagine Clover Member for Bligh trying to stamp out free speech like this.

  • poor clover

    So now clover has to sue and be seen as a bully stomping on free speech or she has to do an embarrassing backdown and admit this was just an empty threat – poor clover, what a mess!!

  • Stephanie Calabornes

    so it appears Clover Moore and Monica Barone are being investigated by The Independent Commission Against corruption. Why shouldn’t they, the numerous people Clover Moore has working for her puts other councillors in difficulty when trying to do the best for the community. Clover Moore continues to sit in on meetings where she has pecuniary interests having her councillors vote with her to overturn major concerns other councillors want to do right by community members. The continual lies and hiding of facts, a couple council meetings ago it came up again that Monica Barone staffers had hidden documents from councillors. Councillors often dont get information until 30 minutes before a meeting, or the day before, not giving them adequate information to prepare for meetings. Clover Moore is also privy to information other councillors aren’t. When it was suggested this needed to change, was voted down by Clover Moore and her councillors. Definate corrupt conduct in my mind. I have taken to George Street advertising there is an ICAC investigation into Clover Moore and Monica Barone, will be outside Town Hall from Monday-Friday for next 2 weeks, come and say hi or come and sign petition for ICAC to broaden their scope of inquiry…This is the latest

  • icarus

    Peter Young for the record I do not and have never worked for The City Of Sydney Council and specifically the Office Of The Lord Mayor. I find it rather pathetic that whenever a resident and ratepayer of the city of Sydney posts a pro Clover Moore comment the cabal of Clover haters assume its an inside job.

  • Cole

    Icarus just one question , will you still support clover if found to be corrupt and if so why , not taking any sides here but if anybody abuses their power , tony abbot , ofarell , or clover Moore then they have to face justice.

  • Peter Young

    Icarus – perhaps your partner works in the Office of Lord Mayor ? You need to be honest and transparent about your involvement in the Clover Moore political machine. I remain suspicious – very suspicious- that you are involved in that machine. Icarus – are you a member of “Clover Moore Independent Team” local government political party. Have you ever donated to it or assisted it with it’s campaigns, financially or with physical labour?

  • icarus

    Peter Young you are appearing paranoid and ridiculous now. No my partner does not work in The Office of The Lord Mayor or for The City Of Sydney nor am I a member of The Clover Moore Independent Team. I find it remarkable and very niave of you and others here to assume anyone posting pro Clover Moore comments here must be on the payroll of The Lord Mayor or part of the party machine. Concidering the fact that Clover Moore was reelected as Mayor in the last council elections with a primary vote of 56% its not unreasonable surely to expect she would have some passionate supporters in the community she serves.

  • Peter Young

    Icarus, I don’t consider myself paranoid at all. In early 2012 in response to my letter to the Wentworth Courier, a letter was written by the husband of the Chief of Staff in the Office of Lord Mayor – a fact not disclosed to the newspaper. Most letters in local newspapers supporting Clover Moore are written either by members of the Clover Moore Independent Team or campaign workers. In addition, documents obtained under Freedom of Information, from the City of Sydney indicates ‘astroturfing’ is encouraged.

    Icarus – one thing is for certain- you do not follow elections in the City of Sydney carefully. Your claim that at the last Council election (2012) Ms Moore got 56% of the primary vote is sheer nonsense. She received 51.07% of the primary vote.

  • Icarus

    Peter the statistics I quoted referred to the vote for The Lord Mayor NOT the councillors vote. My stated statistic is correct.

  • Icarus

    Angela Vithoulkas LST 6722 9.8 +9.8
    Zahra Stardust SEX 2241 3.3 +3.3
    Clover Moore CMI 34903 51.1 -5.4
    Edward Mandla LIB 11031 16.1 +2.1
    Denis Doherty – 557 0.8 +0.8
    Irene Doutney GRN 4462 6.5 -6.9
    Linda Scott ALP 7124 10.4 -4.6
    Dixie Coulton IND 1303 1.9 +1.9
    …. OTH 0 0.0 -1.1
    Formal Votes 68343
    Informal 1816 2.6 -0.3
    Total Votes / Turnout 70159 69.2

    Peter , I stand corrected. Your figures are correct. Clover Moore received as you said 51.07% of the primary vote followed by Edward Mandla 16.1 %
    and Linda Scott 10.4 %

    Wow what a victory for Clover !

  • Andrew Woodhouse

    CLOVER MOORE’S USE-BY DATE?

    Clover Moore’s bully boy tactics against the little, independent Alternative Media Group over the Luke Harper case may well backfire.

    We refer to today’s article in The Daily Telegraph,
    “Clover’s threat to sue over DA claim,” October 8, page 15.

    If she pursues her case the whole mess will be revealed in open court including, perhaps, other allegations.

    Her claim she’s referred this matter to the ICAC fails to state council has limited the ICAC’s terms of reference and the ICAC only report backs to the complainant, ie., her: this case may never be fully investigated and we may never see the final ICAC report.

    Now Clover Moore is over 70 perhaps it’s time Barry O’Farrell had another)review: this time to introduce compulsory retirement at 72 for politicians just as we do for Judges*, to ensure competence.

    * see section 44 Judicial Officers Act http://www.legislation.nsw.gov.au/viewtop/inforce/act+100+1986+cd+0+N

    link to D/T article:
    http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/clover-moore8217s-threat-to-sue-local-newspaper-city-news/story-fni0cx12-1226734345848

    Thank you for raising this issue in the public interest

    Andrew Woodhouse
    President
    Potts Point & Kings Cross Heritage Conservation Society
    Ph 0415 949 506
    Saving our past for the future