Monday, February 12, 2007

John So $100,000.00 bankrupt fast ride

Ron Walker extracts ratepayers' money from Lord Mayor without authority

Extraordinary revelations John So has on his own volition without approval from the City Council allocated $100,000 to fund Ron Walker's Grand Prix extravaganza.

Deal done behind closed doors without City Council approval

There is ongoing concern as to the legality of John So - "Who can not say No" deal. Issues such as permission to close off public streets, security and public liability are still unresolved.

City Council offers in December last year had rejected approaches made by the Grand Prix Organization for the City Council to fund the $100,000 John So extravaganza.

John So has overstepped his authority. The State Government, the State Ombudsman and State Auditor General must investigate to reassure ratepayers that the Lord Mayor's has acted within the terms of his authority. Calls by Cr Clarke and other City Councillors must not fall on death ears.

All ready the City Council's projected income is $4 Million Dollars below expected revenue.

The allocation of 100,000 for this event is not included in the City Council's budget. Other programs and events seeking public funding will have to be sacrificed to make ends meet.

If it turns out John So has acted improper then he should resign forthwith.

The City Council meets tomorrow to consider this issue. It is unclear if this matter will be discussed on open public session.

So $100,000 Grand Prix deal riles council
Sourek: The Age
Clay Lucas
February 12, 2007

JOHN So has reinforced his reputation as the Lord Mayor who cannot say no, especially when Grand Prix chairman Ron Walker pays a visit to Town Hall.

A report into Melbourne City Council's deal to sponsor next month's Grand Prix warm-up in Lygon Street has found that the Lord Mayor unilaterally decreed that $100,000 in funding be found for the event.

Cr So's decision to use public funds to pay for the Ferrari promotion came despite council officers having already rejected the Grand Prix Corporation's overtures for funding.

The Lord Mayor pledged the sponsorship after a meeting with Mr Walker and Grand Prix boss Tim Bamford on January 23.

But council officers told the Grand Prix Corporation in December that the council could not afford to fund the Lygon Street Ferrari Festival.

No other councillors were consulted before Cr So told chief executive David Pitchford — whose $300,000 contract is up for renewal next month — to find $100,000 in funding for the event.

"This is a deal done behind closed doors," said Cr Peter Clarke, who yesterday called for an Ombudsman investigation into the sponsorship.

"There is only one place to allocate public money like this: in a public forum. How many other times has public money has been allocated in this way?"

Finance chairman Brian Shanahan was also dismayed that council money was being spent on an event for the Grand Prix Corporation. "We are around $4 million down on our expected parking revenue. We should be avoiding expenditures like this, especially when the Grand Prix can pay for it," he said.

Cr So, who is overseas, did not comment yesterday. But Mr Pitchford issued a statement saying there had been "no abuse of power".

Mr Walker yesterday said it had been "right and proper" for him to pay a visit to the Lord Mayor. "When there are issues to be sorted out, the chairman of the (Grand Prix) corporation and the Lord Mayor sit down and try to work it out," Mr Walker, said heaping praise on Cr So. "He is one of the best lord mayors we have ever had."

The Ferrari Festival will feature a parade of vintage Ferrari cars and a formula one racing car.

At a special meeting of council tomorrow to decide whether the event will go ahead, the father of Damian Cooper — who died last month after being struck down by a car on Lygon Street — will attend to plead with councillors to lower the Ferrari parade's 60 km/h speed limit.

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