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City council "calls the lawyers" for blackout compo

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A divided Adelaide City Council will seek legal advice on compensation for damages it may have incurred from last week’s statewide blackout.

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A council committee last night voted to seek legal advice despite warnings from Lord Mayor Martin Haese that “calling the lawyers” was an “aggressive” move that would send “the wrong message” when some towns were still being affected by flooding.

But South Ward councillor, lawyer Alex Antic, said it was “clear that the city of Adelaide did sustain financial losses” and that it was appropriate to seek compensation on behalf of ratepayers.

Antic added that his motion – which also asked for a staff report into the financial impact of the blackout – contained no allegations, and the suggestion that it was aggressive was a “misunderstanding of the term legal advice”.

Several council employees worked overtime during the power failure last week. It is unclear whether there was any physical damage to council assets.

Area councillor Anne Moran told the meeting she was “sick to death of this council … taking such a forelock-tugging, please don’t offend the government [attitude]”.

“The State Government run our electricity system – they are where the buck ends,” she said.

“This Government has treated this council with derision.

“This council is worse than the previous council – we’re even more tremblingly nervous in the face of the government.”

However, Haese told InDaily this morning that the blackout was caused by “an act of god … and for everyone to be reaching for the telephone to call the lawyers [was] inappropriate”.

He said it was reasonable to find out how much the blackout had cost the council, but that it should speak to the Local Government Association rather than seeking legal counsel.

The motion was amended during the meeting to add that the council was also seeking “professional and insurance” advice regarding the blackout.

The council will reconsider its decision at next week’s council meeting. Haese urged councillors to “think carefully about their position” before that.

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