Mayor sought to stifle debate: Councillor


p1819ryandamienBy ERWIN CHLANDA
UPDATED, see below.
Mayor Damien Ryan (pictured) wanted to make an embargoed release earlier today of the town council budget although it is still open for debate by elected members tonight.
So says a council source speaking on the condition of not being named, adding the premature release was stopped upon the intervention by Cr Eli Melky, frequently outnumbered on council, but successful this time.
Asked for comment, Cr Melky said: “This early release would have been a flagrant violation of the elected members’ right to conclude discussion of the budget.
“It seems Mr Ryan is so confident that he and his pack of four will get their way that he is prepared to release information that may well be wrong.
“Councillors would have been constrained from making changes tonight, as they are entitled to.
p2122-Eli-Melky“To the Mayor’s credit, he did not go ahead with this,” says Cr Melky (at left).
The further debate is scheduled for the “confidential” section this evening, and the announcement of the Budget is expected tomorrow morning.
The only medium to benefit from the Mayor’s move would have been the overseas owned Centralian Advocate, which relies on a press in Darwin, doing its print run for Tuesday’s edition on Mondays.
The Alice Springs News Online has invited Mayor Ryan to comment.
UPDATE, May 26. 2015, 10am:
Councillor Jade Kudrenko last night tried to get Cr Eli Melky that he was the anonymous “council source” for this story.
She described the story as “extremely one-sided” and said it didn’t serve the community in not reflecting “the level and context” of debate that was had between all councillors on the issue.
Cr Melky said he had “spoken to Erwin” a number of times in the afternoon. Pressed on the issue, he said “Why don’t you ask him?”. He said he was told that other people had called. He also pointed out that in his comments he had said it was to the Mayor’s credit that the plan to release the budget under embargo was dropped. He saw the story as serving to outline to the Centralian Advocate that he was against an embargo.
Mayor Damien Ryan said he had only become aware of the story at 5.55pm, that is five minutes before the council meeting was due to start. He had been at the hospital all afternoon. He said he was “very disappointed” as he had labelled his email communication to councillors as “confidential”. He hoped whoever was the source would “own up” then and there (looking around the chamber) or let him know after the meeting.
Cr Kudrenko also said that it was “very difficult” if councillors could not trust each other in confidential emails.
Deputy Mayor Kylie Bonanni said saw herself as “labelled” by Cr Melky’s comment as “one of the four” and she didn’t like to be classed in that way as she has her own point of view. In fact she had changed her mind on this issue. She was initially inclined to agree to the embargoed release but on reflection did not like being asked to give approval to the move on a Sunday morning. She said she had requested not to have to answer in an email like that.
That was “one example” of the story not representing the full picture, said Cr Kudrenko.
Deputy Mayor Bonanni wanted to go further – “I did note, in that we were making allowance for the print, for the paper …” – but was cut off by the Mayor:
“I prefer not to discuss the issue, it was in confidential. I prefer not to discuss it. The question here was about who was the one who decided to go and speak to a local news service.”
He said the issue could be discussed later in the evening over a cup of tea.


  1. Have you seen a copy of the release, Erwin?
    Do you know absolutely that it had specific information about the budget in it, not simply what was on the agenda to be discussed?
    Ministerial leaks to pet media have been par for the course for years – even you have had them.
    The trick for media, as you should well know, is not to be caught in the middle of a power struggle.
    If Mayor Ryan was trying to gag debate then he deserves a paddling.
    If it was another attempt by Cr Melky to become Emperor of Gondwanaland, however, it should be revealed as such.
    [ED – The Mayor had been invited to reply. KIERAN FINNANE’s coverage of last night’s meeting, posted this morning, deals with the issue further, and reports what Mayor Ryan and other elected members said.]


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