Why Phil Martin isn’t aiming for Lord Mayor

City councilor Phil Martin says he’s quit the mayoral race to avoid “ruthless, personal attacks” from Team Adelaide, but he hopes another potential Lord Mayor candidate will be able to curb the dysfunction at City Hall.

At an Adelaide City Council meeting in mid-July, elected members supported a motion to release part of a controversial, previously confidential report into the public domain.

The disclosed documents were two appendices from the Culture Investigations report, which was presented confidentially to the council for the first time in September 2020.

North Ward Councilor Mary Couros, from majority voting bloc Team Adelaide, requested that these annexes be included in the minutes of the July meeting. Team Adelaide supported the motion and the documents are now publicly available.

One of the appendices contains anonymous survey responses from Adelaide City Council staff, in which respondents were asked to rate from zero (“cannot comment”) to 10 (“strongly agree”) regarding statements like or they like to represent the organization if they have been “embarrassed” by the behavior of elected members, and whether this behavior has negatively impacted their mental health.

The other document that Team Adelaide voted to make public includes comments from the “further feedback” section of the survey. It contains general employee statements on how to improve interactions to make City Hall a better place to work.

Veteran North Ward councilors Phil Martin and Anne Moran were identified in two of the section’s 80 comments, which indicated the two exhibited “bad behavior”. Another of the 80 responses stated that “three” elected members were responsible for the respondent’s “negative feedback”. The third councilor was not named.

The wealth of information was released on July 18, and three weeks later Phil announced via letter that he was withdrawing from the mayoral race in the upcoming municipal elections. The letter stated that he would instead return as mayor, a possible, but undisclosed, contender – former Senator and self-proclaimed “Transparency Warrior”, Rex Patrick.

Part of why Phil chose to pull out of the mayoral race, he relates: City of Mag in an exclusive interview, is to avoid being the target of “relentless, personal attacks” by Team Adelaide.

And he says it’s curious that Team Adelaide recently voted to release the results of the study, weeks before the election, as the study was “forgotten”.

If bullying is the information I need to make informed decisions about things like budgets [then] yes, I am guilty of that.
—Phil Martin

Why Phil Martin isn't aiming for Lord Mayor

“I can’t imagine putting my family through a vicious campaign for mayor,” says Phil from the upscale cocktail bar and restaurant Treasury 1860, next to Adelaide City Hall.

“The most important thing is that I think there is someone who has the skills to do it better than me [can].”

That someone is Rex Patrick, whose candidacy for mayor is still hypothetical.

Despite disappearing from the battle for Lord Mayor, Phil’s time on the council is not over. The former senior media manager and business owner of ABC and SBS says he’s not done advocating for his taxpayers in North Adelaide.

“I will be standing in North Ward representing the people of North Adelaide,” he says.

“The work in North Adelaide to be done over the coming term of office is enormous. North Adelaide has suffered tremendously under Team Adelaide’s tenure for five years.”

Asked to reflect on the role he played in the much-reported dysfunction within the council chamber, Phil says his “main offense,” as identified in the report, is asking too many questions.

“I plead guilty,” he says. “I have asked a lot of questions. There are a lot of questions to ask about serious matters, which are kept for the people of Adelaide.”

Of late, Phil has set his sights on Adelaide City Council’s newly created subsidiary, the Adelaide Economic Development Agency, which was set up in early 2021 to “accelerate economic growth in the city and North Adelaide”, according to its website.

“I had and have repeatedly asked for the budget for the Adelaide Economic Development Agency. That was never foreseen,” says Phil.

“Next week I will be filing a Freedom of Information Request for the documents, which should have been provided to the local government under the regulations.

“If harassment is the information I need to make informed decisions about things like budgets, [then] yes, I am guilty of that.”

Nominations for the Adelaide City Council general election close on September 6, with the check and count on September 12.

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