Ryde councillor tells ICAC of ‘inappropriate’ approach


Summary

Councillor Artin Etmekdjian leaves the ICAC hearing into Ryde Council. Photo: Peter RaeA former mayor of Ryde says he was approached about a contentious project by a developer acting as a “messenger” for fellow councillor Ivan Petch.
Nanjing Night Net

He says he told the developer that the matter was inappropriate and he would not get involved.

Artin Etmekdjian, the former mayor who is now a councillor, told an Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing on Friday that the developer and property owner John Goubran had set up a meeting with him.

He says Mr Goubran told him he was acting on behalf of Cr Petch, who wanted to resolve the council deadlock over the civic precinct project.

Cr Etmekdjian said Mr Goubran had suggested at the meeting, held in a Top Ryde shopping centre coffee shop in January last year, that consideration of the project should be deferred until after the council elections later that year – and that a committee should be set up to try and resolve the issues stalling the project.

But Cr Etmekdjian said he told Mr Goubran to relay to Cr Petch the proposal – and the way it had been broached – was “inappropriate”, and the matter should be a matter for discussion among councillors.

The commission is investigating a number of allegations involving former Ryde mayor Cr Petch, and others, about the alleged release of confidential council information, and an attempt to undermine council employees including the former general manager, John Neish.

The commission is also investigating an allegation that Cr Petch played a role in an offer conveyed to Mr Neish that his employment would be secure if he could delay consideration of the proposed redevelopment of the Ryde Civic Precinct.

Cr Etmekdjian told the commission’s last scheduled day of hearings that when he met with Mr Neish in February last year, Mr Neish told him that he had also been approached by another local businessman with the same proposal. Mr Neish said he had been told to make sure it was successful or his job would be at risk.

Mr Neish said, according to Cr Etmekdjian, that he also found the proposal inappropriate and that he would report it to the corruption commission once he had received it in writing from the businessman.

The commission was told that the civic precinct project was a hot topic and had been the subject of some fiery debate in council chambers the previous year, resulting in a 6-6 councillor deadlock.

But counsel for Mr Goubran, Stephen Stanton, put it to Cr Etmekdjian that the meeting he had described in January last year had never taken place. The proposal was rejected by Cr Etmekdjian.

Mr Goubran said the meeting with Cr Etmekdjian did not take place in January. He said it took place later in the year and it was not at the instigation of Cr Petch.

Mr Goubran told the hearing that the idea of setting up a community consultative committee to sort out the objections to the civic precinct redevelopment was his own idea, not Cr Petch’s.

He said it was in response to anger from the community that they felt they had not been consulted about the redevelopment.

The commission was also shown emails that included confidential information about a rezoning affecting land owned by Mr Goubran and others, which had allegedly been forwarded by Cr Petch to Mr Goubran via a mutual friend.

Mr Goubran gave evidence that he had received the email and forwarding it on to his business partners, but denied knowing it was confidential internal council information.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


Councillor Artin Etmekdjian leaves the ICAC hearing into Ryde Council. Photo: Peter RaeA former mayor of Ryde says he was approached about a contentious project by a developer acting as a “messenger” for fellow councillor Ivan Petch.
Nanjing Night Net

He says he told the developer that the matter was inappropriate and he would not get involved.

Artin Etmekdjian, the former mayor who is now a councillor, told an Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing on Friday that the developer and property owner John Goubran had set up a meeting with him.

He says Mr Goubran told him he was acting on behalf of Cr Petch, who wanted to resolve the council deadlock over the civic precinct project.

Cr Etmekdjian said Mr Goubran had suggested at the meeting, held in a Top Ryde shopping centre coffee shop in January last year, that consideration of the project should be deferred until after the council elections later that year – and that a committee should be set up to try and resolve the issues stalling the project.

But Cr Etmekdjian said he told Mr Goubran to relay to Cr Petch the proposal – and the way it had been broached – was “inappropriate”, and the matter should be a matter for discussion among councillors.

The commission is investigating a number of allegations involving former Ryde mayor Cr Petch, and others, about the alleged release of confidential council information, and an attempt to undermine council employees including the former general manager, John Neish.

The commission is also investigating an allegation that Cr Petch played a role in an offer conveyed to Mr Neish that his employment would be secure if he could delay consideration of the proposed redevelopment of the Ryde Civic Precinct.

Cr Etmekdjian told the commission’s last scheduled day of hearings that when he met with Mr Neish in February last year, Mr Neish told him that he had also been approached by another local businessman with the same proposal. Mr Neish said he had been told to make sure it was successful or his job would be at risk.

Mr Neish said, according to Cr Etmekdjian, that he also found the proposal inappropriate and that he would report it to the corruption commission once he had received it in writing from the businessman.

The commission was told that the civic precinct project was a hot topic and had been the subject of some fiery debate in council chambers the previous year, resulting in a 6-6 councillor deadlock.

But counsel for Mr Goubran, Stephen Stanton, put it to Cr Etmekdjian that the meeting he had described in January last year had never taken place. The proposal was rejected by Cr Etmekdjian.

Mr Goubran said the meeting with Cr Etmekdjian did not take place in January. He said it took place later in the year and it was not at the instigation of Cr Petch.

Mr Goubran told the hearing that the idea of setting up a community consultative committee to sort out the objections to the civic precinct redevelopment was his own idea, not Cr Petch’s.

He said it was in response to anger from the community that they felt they had not been consulted about the redevelopment.

The commission was also shown emails that included confidential information about a rezoning affecting land owned by Mr Goubran and others, which had allegedly been forwarded by Cr Petch to Mr Goubran via a mutual friend.

Mr Goubran gave evidence that he had received the email and forwarding it on to his business partners, but denied knowing it was confidential internal council information.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.