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Legal bill grows over city councillor war of words

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Adelaide City councillor Anne Moran says thousands of ratepayer dollars have been spent on lawyers investigating a code of conduct complaint against her, with the bill set to rise after mediation with a rival councillor failed to resolve their dispute.

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Moran told InDaily this morning “the legal meter is ticking and it has been for some weeks”, with the city council racking up “thousands of dollars” in lawyers’ fees to handle of a code of conduct complaint lodged by Arman Abrahimzadeh in May.

The complaint includes allegations that Moran called Abrahimzadeh a “dickhead” during a council meeting and mispronounced his name.

Abrahimzadeh also alleged Moran told him “you want to change my motion you fucking speak to me first” when he rose to move an amendment during a council meeting in May.

Moran previously admitted to the behaviour, but denied it warranted formal investigation.

According the council’s standing orders, code of conduct investigations must be carried out in a confidential manner “with all due expedition in accordance with the rules of natural justice and procedural fairness”.

Revealing details of the mediation to InDaily this morning, Moran reasoned: “it is supposed to be a confidential process but it’s not legally binding”.

Moran said the council contracted legal firm KelledyJones to carry out the code of conduct investigation.

She said KelledyJones lawyers offered her and Abrahimzadeh mediation to air their grievances, but that mediation failed.

“I was a bit reluctant because I couldn’t really see any point seeing as I’ve denied any wrongdoing,” she said.

“My rationale was that code of conducts are very expensive, time consuming and distracting and I thought maybe if I participated in the mediation I might be able to explain to him why what I said wasn’t offensive and make him understand that.

“That didn’t happen, unfortunately, and the mediation did fail.”

Moran said she emailed Abrahimzadeh “about a month ago” saying she didn’t want to have any dealings with him outside the council chamber.

She said Abrahimzadeh agreed to that request.

In May, the council also allowed councillors to choose where they sat in the chamber, following comments from Moran that she felt “threatened” and “fearful” by the “disrespect and hatred” of other members.

“I consider that the situation between him and myself has been solved,” Moran said this morning.

“But the mediation did fail because he (Abrahimzadeh) said he wanted to continue it (the code of conduct process), so none of my reasoning was good enough for him.

“I’m certainly not going to apologise because that would be ridiculous.”

According to the council’s standing orders, at the conclusion of a code of conduct investigation lawyers must present a written report to the council’s CEO summarising “factual findings” and “recommendations arising from the report”.

Moran said lawyers would now “extensively interview” both her and Abrahimzadeh to write a report.

She said if the lawyers believed their findings were worthy of further investigation, they would send the report to the Ombudsman.

“The mediator has got to be paid, KelledyJones has got to be paid, and this has been going on for about a month and a half now,” Moran said.

“I really do question the motives of doing this.”

Moran said during a previous code of conduct investigation involving her about 15 years ago, the council spent over $40,000.

“But it was a slightly different process, this might not be so expensive,” she said.

Underpinning the dispute are ongoing tensions at Town Hall between the “Team Adelaide” majority faction – of which Abrahimzadeh is a member – and the minority bloc – to which Moran belongs.

Moran said the code of conduct complaint was “one of a pattern of behaviours” from Team Adelaide.

“I’m in the opposition non-faction and this is very distracting,” she said.

In a statement to InDaily, Abrahimzadeh said it was his understanding that he couldn’t comment on the mediation process and outcome.

“The complaint is currently progressing in accordance with the relevant process and I don’t want to compromise the integrity of the process,” he said.

“As an elected member I’ll continue to serve the City of Adelaide residents and ratepayers.”

A council spokesperson told InDaily the council does not comment on specific code of conduct cases that have not been finalised.

The council voted in June to create an online code of conduct register that publicly named elected members who were the subject of a complaint.

Asked if such a register had been established, the spokesperson said “no cases have been substantiated, so there is nothing to be published at this time”.

“If any complaint is determined and substantiated in the future, then this will be published”.

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