BY ALEX EUGENE
Just nine months after being elected to the City of Sydney Council the Deputy Lord Mayor Kerryn Phelps has resigned from the Clover Moore Independent team. At the City Council meeting on June 26th, Phelps made the shock announcement that she will serve out her remaining three years term as an independent Councillor on the City of Sydney.
The high profile Doctor served as the President of the Australian Medical Association and is a strong advocate for same sex marriage after marrying her life partner Jackie Stricker in New York in 2011. Phelps stood in the number two spot on the Clover Moore Party ticket and it was widely assumed she was the heir apparent to the Lord Mayoralty when the 71 year old Ms Moore retires.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore issued a stinging rebuke of Professor Phelps stating said she had informed her just a week ago that she would not continue as the Deputy Lord Mayor, blaming the news as the real reason for her huffy exit from the Clover Moore Independent team.
“I think ambition has driven her letter [of ] resignation,” the Mayor said in a statement. I think she likes the position but perhaps not the work,” she said.
Councillor Phelps denies she stood down because of wanting to serve as the Deputy Lord Mayor. Instead she claims there was not enough transparency, and that she was fed up with asking questions that were never answered. Among them were enquiries about staffing levels in the Office of the Lord Mayor and concerns about whether public scrutiny of expenditures would be improved.
“I started asking questions several months ago in my role as Deputy Chair of the Finance Committee. I also asked questions in preparation for an Audit Committee meeting. I kept meeting resistance citing political sensitivity,” she told City Hub.
The resignation follows on going friction on the newly elected Council. Two weeks ago City Hub reported that the Lord Mayor was unable to find support from anyone on her team to second a motion at last month’s meeting.
Councillors from all sides of the political spectrum have called on the council to live stream its meetings, as the newly formed Inner West Council does.
Councillor Phelps told City Hub she believed live streaming the meetings would be a positive move. “It would definitely have some benefits to the community. I think it would be reasonable to explore the issue further and to see if the impediments can be overcome, and if there would be sufficient public interest to justify its introduction,” she said.
As usual, the Mayor jumped to repair her image as the good guy, adding to her harsh statement about Councillor Phelps that “I have never asked anyone one my team to vote in a way that compromised their beliefs” – even though it would appear that is exactly what happened at the meeting.
Despite the Mayor’s ungracious comments about Cr Phelps, the latter remained dignified in response, saying “the Lord Mayor has her own unique style of leadership.”
Clover Moore’s fall out with her current Deputy Lord Mayor is the latest in a history of disputes with people who have served on her team. Past Deputy Lord Mayors have been stood aside because of policy disputes and others on her team have been dumped from the ticket when their term ended.
Lord Mayor Moore said in her statement that she intended to rotate the position of deputy amongst her Independent team because they were talented and deserved the experience. But only time will tell if she will retain this description of them when they all reach the end of their respective terms.
Cr Phelps said that before her term as deputy ends, she will focus on transparent governance, greater support for business, solutions to homelessness, sports facilities, pedestrian safety and improved community consultation.