Three city councillors have alleged the election of members to remunerated committee positions appears to have been “predetermined” by a new voting bloc, with one suggesting it could be an act of retaliation against the last four years of Team Adelaide rule at Adelaide Town Hall.
Factional claims rise again at Town Hall
At the close of the first Adelaide City Council meeting for 2023 on Tuesday night, south ward councillor Henry Davis left the chamber shouting at CityMag that what we just witnessed was “the rise of a new Adelaide City Council faction”.
Tension last night boiled over when Adelaide city councillors voted for elected members to fill the one-year terms of chair and deputy chairs of four recently established functional committees of the Adelaide City Council.
Three elected members told CityMag today they believed the positions were effectively pre-organised by a new dominant faction.
City of Adelaide CEO Clare Mockler said yesterday committee chairs would be paid $7000 for the 12-month job.
Central ward councillor Carmel Noon won chair of City Planning, Development and Business Affairs Committee, with Deputy Lord Mayor Phil Martin voted in as deputy chair.
North ward councillor Mary Couros was supported as chair of the Infrastructure and Public Works Committee, with central ward councillor David Elliot — absent from the meeting — snagging deputy chair.
South ward councillor Mark Siebentritt was backed overwhelmingly as chair of the City Finance and Governance Committee, with central ward councillor Jing Li winning the deputy position.
Area councillor Janet Giles was elected as chair of City Community Services and Culture Committee and councillor Davis garnering Deputy Chair.
Despite winning a deputy chair position, Davis was critical of the process, saying he believed the overall contest was “decided before [the] council meeting”.
“In my view, there is a new faction in the Adelaide City Council,” he told CityMag.
“It’s disappointing for me considering I’m a new councillor, and it seems that this is revenge on Team Adelaide.”
Team Adelaide was the former majority voting bloc of the Adelaide City Council, most recently led by SA Liberal Party affiliate Alexander Hyde.
Some faction members — Couros, area councillor Arman Abrahimzadeh and central ward councillor Simon Hou — were re-elected at the 2022 Adelaide City Council general elections.
Davis alleged to CityMag that Martin and Snape were this new group’s leaders, with five other new members also aligned with the group.
Snape denied allegations he was leading a new faction, telling CityMag: “I nominated Mary Couros for one of the only four paid committee chairs and lost a vote to Cr Davis to be one of the deputy’s (sic). Does that sound like a ringleader of a faction?
“All I saw last night was bad behaviour from a couple of councillors that reflected the old days of bitter factionalism.”
Martin told CityMag he was invited by Lord Mayor Jane-Lomax Smith to ”help develop” a new governance structure for the council, and “approached the individual councillors and asked them if they would be interested in chairing or deputy chairing [committees].”
“In the process of inquiring into whether people were interested in taking on these new roles, I spoke to people who were elected and were not, including Mary Couros, Arman Abrahimzadeh, Mark Siebentritt [and] Carmel Noon,” he said.
“I spoke to just about everybody over the course of a couple of days.
“I asked councillor Couros to chair the Infrastructure and Public Works committee because it is in — I think — an area in which she would have great interest.
“It was the Lord Mayor’s view and mine that she (Couros) would make an ideal chair for that position.”
Couros told CityMag it was an “honour” to chair council committees and was “thankful” the Lord Mayor suggested she be nominated for the position.
But she also alleged there “appears” to be a new faction led by councillor Snape, and that her chair committee position was preordained.
“Prior to the meeting, I was advised by the Deputy Lord Mayor, which is councillor Martin, that he’s kind enough to want to give me one of the committees,” Couros said.
“I said I would like city planning and business.
“He (Martin) told me that was already going to be Carmel’s – councillor Noon.
“I said, ‘Well, obviously the numbers are there and it’s already been allocated.’”
Lomax-Smith — elected on a platform to restore the Adelaide City Council’s tarnished reputation — told CityMag: “The elected body has already shown a willingness to work together to achieve positive outcomes for the city and I have no reason to believe that won’t continue.”
“The vote for Chair and Deputy Chair positions for our four committees was a democratic process, which saw eight different councillors elected to Chair and Deputy Chair positions, including Councillor Couros who will chair the Infrastructure and Public Works Committee and Councillor Davis who will serve as Deputy Chair for the City Community Services and Culture Committee,” she said.
“On a number of occasions the vote was tied and a winner drawn at random, so I don’t believe it’s fair to say councillors were voting in factions.”
Lomax-Smith said she encouraged all members to “use a large spreadsheet” to share “opportunities” they are interested in across a range of representative and leadership positions.
“Of the 12 councillors, 8 were elected to Chair or Deputy Chair positions with nobody holding multiple positions,” she said.
Abrahimzadeh joined the growing council chorus alleging there appeared to be “a new ruling faction” and “the writing [was] on the wall”.
“When people were getting nominated by certain councillors, we knew that that was a done deal,” he said.
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But Abrahimzadeh also said he was not going to “criticise” a potential voting majority in the Adelaide City Council as every local government council was factionalised.
“If that’s the will of the chamber then that’s the will of the chamber, and we just have to work with it,” he explained.
Asked if this was indeed “revenge” against Team Adelaide, he said: “I don’t know”.
“I don’t think we’ve had enough time to figure things out exactly in terms of who will end up.”
Li, voted-in as Deputy Chair of the City Finance and Governance Committee, said last night’s appointments were based on merit.
“My skill is doing financial analysis, and I was appointed as deputy,” he said
“I thought that is quite skill-based.
“Mary (Couros) is not happy but she has got a chairman appointment, and she is remunerated.
“I really want to remind people to not apply double standards when the result of democracy (doesn’t) go their way.
“As a newly elected independent there is no such thing as ‘revenge’.”
Noon told CityMag in an emailed statement she was elected as part of the Adelaide City Council general elections on the platform of “no factions” and disliked “group think” with a passion.
“I have NEVER asked anyone to vote for me, and when my fellow councillors have informed me they want to nominate me for whatever authority/committee I either say ‘yes’ I’m interested or ‘no’ due often to timelines or feeling like there would be some more equipped,” she said.
“For Henry (Davis) and Mary (Couros) to be saying there is a new faction due to how the ‘cards have fallen’ — re: voting on authorities or committees — is them giving a reason why their nomination didn’t get up.
“There isn’t a ‘new’ faction — there is a bunch of Independents that are voting on what they believe to be the right decisions for whatever matter it happens to be.”
The governance structure of these newly minted committees will be reviewed in the middle of the year for “effectiveness”, the administration said in its report.