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Candidate reveals inner workings of secretive council election group

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EXCLUSIVE | The group widely referred to as “Team Adelaide” was formed to help Lord Mayor Martin Haese’s favoured candidates secure election to the next Adelaide City Council, a member of the group has told InDaily.

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"Team Adelaide" claims

Haese has repeatedly denied the existence of a group called “Team Adelaide” in interviews with InDaily, but argued that a “unified” group of elected members on the council would be of benefit to the city.

He now says he will support certain candidates at the November city council election, but it would be “premature” to name them before nominations close.

Central ward councillor Houssam Abiad has also denied knowledge of the group, but extolled the advantages of a more collaborative future council.

Abiad is yet to respond to claims, by south ward candidate Dr Helen Donovan, that he last month tried to recruit her to join the group, and that its purpose was to form a majority faction to control the next Adelaide City Council using a comprehensive preference deal, linking a target number of 19 candidates.

But now, a person who says they plan to nominate as a candidate, has broken ranks to reveal the group does indeed exist.

The candidate, who contacted InDaily this week and spoke on condition of anonymity, says they want to clarify incorrect public claims and insinuations about the group’s activities.

They said the purpose of the group was to ensure Haese’s favoured candidates were elected to the next Adelaide City Council.

The candidate said that the group had never called itself “Team Adelaide” – but agreed that it was an established collective that had been active for at least the past two months.

They were adamant that none of its members had broken the provisions of the Local Government Act during recruitment activities and that no money had changed hands – except to secure the bulk discount printing of election flyers.

The candidate said the aim of the group was to form a majority on the next council, but that “if one or two of us get in it would be better than none … because the Lord Mayor would have someone that he could look to as a trusted individual (on council)”.

The candidate declined to answer several of InDaily’s questions about the group, but advised: “There’s only one person who can answer these questions for you and it’s not Mr Abiad. It would be the Lord Mayor.”

The candidate would not reveal the identity of its other members, the location of its meetings or its recruitment tactics, but was happy to discuss its general purpose.

“I think it’s got a lot to do with him sourcing the right people that he (Haese) wants in his council,” the candidate said.

“Someone that he can talk openly with.

“He feels there are a couple of people on the council (with whom) he … can’t do that.”

The candidate said they were not concerned by the prospect, if they get elected, of feeling indebted to Haese during the next council term – but felt the opposite.

“We’re all taking a risk being on this group.”

“It could bite us in the arse.”

Asked to address Donovan’s claims – including that she was asked for a $1750 donation for election costs in order to join the group, and the existence of a preference deal to secure a majority bloc on the council – the candidate told InDaily: “I think Dr Donovan was probably looking at an early iteration of something that is not what it is any more.”

The candidate said that if – hypothetically – they learned that Donovan’s claims were true and that any member of the group had used public resources as part of recruiting activities, they would quit the group.

“And I would probably renege my candidacy,” they said.

“But I’m confident that didn’t happen … no council resources have been used.”

The candidate said the only monetary transaction involved in being a member of the group was to bulk-buy recycled paper election flyers from printing and campaigns company Finsbury Green.

“We all get individually invoiced, so that we’re not actually putting all the group (names on the invoice) because that would be seen as some sort of wrongdoing,” the candidate said.

“We all pay individually.”

The candidate said the group had planned to develop a series of shared policies – despite the fact that “we disagree so much” on policy – but that news coverage of the group by InDaily and the actions of north ward councillor Phil Martin had meant launching as a collective, with a joint policy platform, was no longer possible.

“We were going to talk about shared policies, but it’s all a bit too complicated now,” the candidate said.

At Tuesday evening’s meeting, councillor Martin tried to move a motion for an investigation into whether council staff or public resources such as Town Hall meeting rooms had been used during activity to recruit candidates to join “Team Adelaide”. The motion failed to go to a vote because Haese argued it was ultra vires (beyond the council’s power to decide), and because the north ward councillor did not receive a seconder.

Fellow north ward councillor and Local Government Association SA president Sue Clearihan told the meeting she would be reporting allegations to council CEO Mark Goldstone that another unnamed councillor had used public resources to gather candidates for the upcoming election.

Under the Local Government Act, a councillor must not use a facility or a service provided by the council unrelated to the performance of official duties.

Asked whether he would be telling voters that candidates in the group are connected, whether the group’s purpose was indeed to secure the election of his favoured candidates (its members) and why he had kept details of the group secret, Haese told InDaily yesterday: “Although I do not intend to run a preferential ticket at this stage, I do intend to support those candidates that I believe will best serve the interests of the community over the next term of council.”

“However, it is premature for me to name those candidates as registration does not close until 18 September.

“I reaffirm that my door is always open to any community-minded candidate who wants to discuss their vision for the City of Adelaide and how the next term of council can work together as a dynamic team to deliver even greater results for the community.”

Haese said “speculation and conjecture is usually rife before elections” and that “most of it is rubbish often motivated by self-interest”, but did not identify which of the anonymous candidate’s claims he disputed or on what basis.

He added that he had already met with some sitting councillors intending to run again, and with “a number of credible new candidates who have also expressed their enthusiasm”.

“As Lord Mayor of the City of Adelaide’s first ever gender-balanced term of Council, I am encouraging more women to nominate as I have seen the benefits of more balanced decision making.”

South ward councillor Priscilla Corbell-Moore declined to comment, when asked about her involvement in “Team Adelaide” (or the group referred to that way) earlier this month – but said that she was “running with the Lord Mayor” at the upcoming election.

Former Dignity Party candidate for the state seat of Adelaide, B.J. Price, told InDaily earlier this month that her main involvement with the group was securing low-cost bulk printing of election flyers, and that she was not involved in, or asked to be part of, any preference deal.

InDaily has repeatedly sought comment from Abiad regarding the group in recent weeks, including this morning, but he has not responded.

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