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Town Hall's big bill to replace councillor after second exit

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UPDATED: Adelaide City Council ratepayers will fork out up to $100,000 on a by-election to fill the seat left vacant by former councillor and soon-to-be Upper House politician Robert Simms – the second such election prompted by the Greens member in six years.

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An Adelaide City Council spokesperson told InDaily this morning that the council had budgeted $100,000 to run a supplementary election to fill Simms’ seat, after the area councillor last month announced his “immediate” resignation from Town Hall to replace retiring Greens MLC Mark Parnell in the state’s Upper House.

It is the second time Simms has prematurely left the council during his political career, after he resigned in 2015 during his first term to fill the seat left vacant by former Greens Senator and Parnell’s wife, Penny Wright.

That resignation forced a supplementary election costing in the order of $75,000.

The Electoral Commission of SA told InDaily that candidate nominations for this year’s supplementary election would open on May 27 and close on June 10.

The commission said ballot materials would be dispatched to voters from July 6, with voting to close on July 26.

Council staff will tonight present elected members with a summary of the total costs incurred by ratepayers during the 2015 by-election, as well as the total length of time that Simms served during his two terms in office.

The information was requested by south ward councillor and Simms’ former factional opponent Alexander Hyde.

Simms, who was elected by Greens members in December as their lead Upper House candidate, told councillors last month that he was required to resign from the council immediately to be eligible for the Legislative Council seat.

He described the career move as an “exciting opportunity” that would allow him to “better promote action” on issues that he had been advocating for as councillor.

Simms acknowledged that his resignation “will create some disruption for the City Council”.

“I hope that you will accept my apologies for this,” he wrote.

It comes as the council wrangles with multi-million revenue shortfalls in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced Town Hall’s executive to axe over 100 full-time jobs.

The council is currently planning to sell off assets, including the beach volleyball court on the corner of Frome and Pirie Streets, in an attempt to claw back revenue.

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