AUSTRALIA—In this story, the city employee accused of having porn on his work computer is not the one who gets in trouble. No, in this tale of bad deeds gone punished it is the allegedly corrupt mayor of a Sydney suburb named Ryde who may suffer for having leaked the porn allegation. Strange goings on Down Under, indeed.
The porn facet is not central to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), which is currently underway, charged with “investigating allegations that six Ryde councilors, including [Ryde] Mayor Ivan Petch and Labor's dumped candidate for the federal seat of Bennelong, Jeff Salvestro-Martin, engaged in corrupt conduct that included not disclosing political donations.”
Nevertheless, the Commission was informed of the allegation that Petch deliberately leaked a council IT report about a laptop issued to Ryde general manager John Neish that had been used to access pornography, and also heard “a phone tap of [Petch] threatening to destroy [Neish] by releasing details of [the] downloads to the media,” ABC News reported.
What had Neish done to earn the ire and retribution of the mayor? According to ABC, “He refused to delay a project to redevelop Ryde's civic precinct." Why that was so problematic for Petch is not explained in news reports, but he clearly wanted Neish out and decided that porn would be the perfect method of acheiving his end, even though Neish is not accused of doing anything "illegal or corrupt."
“According to the council's code of conduct,” reported ABC News, “the IT report was meant to be confidential and the matter was subject to an internal investigation, but Petch hired a solicitor after saving images from the laptop. The solicitor, Bryan Belling, today told the ICAC he met with Petch in a cafe where they discussed the possibility of terminating Mr. Neish's employment.”
“In a phone conversation secretly recorded by the ICAC after the meeting,” the article continues, “Petch told Belling that IT staff had given him a CD with the file names of pornographic websites accessed from the laptop.”
"If it goes to the national press it's irrefutable,” Petch said on the call. “It will destroy him absolutely... His personal standing in the community will be at an all-time low."
Petsh also said Neish should "have his resignation ready" and be prepared to "leave town" once the allegations are made, because his career would effectively be over.
ABC News also released a snippet of the actual call during which the two men joke about their in with the media:
Petch: The ramifications in the hands of the media... they will crucify him.
Belling: I've got, um, I've got a lot of mates at the Tele (the Daily Telegraph newspaper).
Belling: That's the place you'd publish - they'd love this stuff.
Petch: Oh I know. We've got all the same contacts there. I've got a national press bloke who advises me on press releases. With your contacts and my contacts, mate, we'd have no trouble. (LAUGHS) It will be close to a front page.
The inquiry continues.