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sydney alternative media - non-profit community independent trustworthy
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Same ol', same ol' for the Addison Rd Centre Annual General Meeting
Mood:  sad
Topic: local news

Picture: We had to stonewall several members of the audience after this photo: 'Don't take our picture, that's against the law without our permission, delete it' .... blah, blah, blah until the Chair called the meeting to order and pressed on. From right Geof Hague, Natalie McCarthy, President Yvette Andrews, Cr Peter Olive, Stavros Economidis, John Reynolds, and acting general manager Peter Talmacs. Missing from empty chair in middle is Robert Morrison who has chucked it in. On the far left and right foreground are Assad Abdi and Don Mamouney in 'a pincer' movement from the audience. Turnover at the ARC is $480K p.a. not including 40 odd individual tenancies.

We struck out in our nomination for the Board of the Addison Rd Centre in the best 'Stephen Mayne tradition'. In fact our proxy vote, personal representation authorisation by Ridvan Manav of the Turkish Welfare Association Inc, and nomination form signed by a Greening Australia staff member and Law Consumers principal were all ruled out of order for one administrative error or another. These included lack of due notice mainly to do with the federal election distractions but also from lack of assistance by the ARC closed shop itself, with a healthy dose of downright malice from the power structures there for daring to participate at all.

But we couldn't help noticing that our 'talking points' circulated widely before the meeting became the overall focus. Andrews was spruiking our environmental sustainability agenda with an invited speaker, a high priced consultant trawling for work from Pidcock Architects. She wanted to pursue corporate sponsors AMP and ANZ. Or maybe the GM position on $65K or more p.a. Then ex Board President Mamouney calling for greater openness and cooperation (but no practical suggestions). Even Don's sidekick Abdi telling this critic "we wish you well" in the spirit of Gandhi while ruling out any elegibility to an election franchise (similar but much less than ill fated Newhouse recently).


It wasn't until 36 minutes into the meeting that the former General Manager Laird who resigned 'just wanting to get out alive' was mentioned, in fact the elephant in the room, and only in a sanitised and quite disingenuous way.
One board member Robert Morrison from off site didn't bother to turn up to step down or report.

The Auditor who apparently had provided a condensed financial report didn't bother to attend either.

At one point Andrews said "the only asset we've got is the 50 year lease.". An extraordinary claim. Not the plant or other equipment including IT server or website. Not the enormous goodwill of the last 25 years. Not the staff. Not the immense unrealised potential of car parking fees, cafe, synergy of cultural and intellectual resources like her own Film Festival project. It was a surreal experience. No wonder one board member told this writer ahead of time they were not looking forward to the meeting. Actually Andrews didn't really mean what she said thanking the staff later on but it indicates a clumsy handle on the task.

She was keen to note her attempts to lobby ministers, but not to embarrass them by naming her ALP senior colleagues, but it was really "very hard" to get public funding.

The Board, most of whom as far as we can tell remain in place after tonight's AGM (we left early to avoid the cronyism), have not provided any justice to this writer for verbal abuse, standing over and harrassment by a board member fully 5 months ago despite a dead letter grievance/mediation procedure on the books. Our written grievance has gone exactly nowhere which is ominous for the next innocent victim, which could be anyone really.

The AGM last night might have been a chance to get some justice but the room had several hostile ratbags in the 30 odd audience in for the fix amongst the already narrow 22 "Ordinary Members"  with most "Associate Members" ie lower status tenants, absent due to well understood powerlessness.

To really go at the dirty laundry would have been a futile brawl with honorary president Yvette Andrews, ex staffer to Meredith Burgman and said to be slated for Senator Faulkner's new minister's office, and the damning information had already been circulated anyway to the disenfranchised. Even so I did find it amusing to hear the nervous speech making of an ALP hack and nervous board member Treasurer John Reynolds the subject of the harrassment complaint, as I studied them from the front row as they evidenced what I would swear was a guilty demeanour. They were scared. They were beginning to experience the discipline of public transparency and they weren't so cocky anymore. Hence also we presume their fixers in the audience.

Some of the questions we drafted but didn't bother to ask included:
1. Do you think the Board has a Labor Party stack?

2. Do you support the mediation/greivance procedure on the books of the ARC, or not?

3. Ian Laird [former GM] has now left for some high powered job in the Community Broadcasting Association. I understand Yvette Andrews wrote to him in his last few days. What did you say to him? [A vicious poison letter apparently.]

4. The website is the modern gateway to the centre and it probably has been crucial to the success of the market. But it's 3 months out of date. Why? [the Board sacked this website developer from the work in a blatant example of victimisation.]
These are the questions we did ask:
1. Associate Members can't vote. There are only 22 Ordinary Members who can vote [for a 7 member Board]. Isn't that a bit unfair for a 3.4 hectare community centre with a 50 year lease?

2. To Cr Olive [Green Party, Marrickville], do councils put their minutes and draft minutes on their website, and if so why not the ARC as well like they do at Waverley?

3. To Cr Olive, what's your view of the deal struck with the Gallery. [read on for this one]
I don't trust many of the people with power at the ARC where I work as a part time gardener and I bring 20 years of legal and community experience to that view. In this respect I refer specifically to Yvette Andrews, John Reynolds, and Natalie McCarthy (studio in the Gallery) and influential tenants like Assad Abdi, Terry Cutcliffe and probably Don Mamouney. In my estimation all know for instance that a free rent deal this last 4 years for the whole Gallery space (two levels apparently around 500 sqm) is dodgy, given the floor space ratio amounts to some $50,000 in revenue per annum on a comparative basis with some other tenancies, even if that amount is radically discounted with community service obligations down to a humble $20K pa or even less! Now a sweetheart deal on low rent for another 3 years but still not publicly available for transparency.

Picture: Terry Cutcliffe, who is fond of saying the local Green Party and more generally are "hopeless". 4 years rent free, now 3 more years low rent sweet heart deal.

Cr Peter Olive, only recently returned to the ARC Board, effectively gave the same advice to the meeting over the vexatious attempt at a blocking point of order by Abdi desperate to keep the whole house of cards aloft. But rather than really address this short changing or misuse of rentable space they preferred to whine about electricity usage of the highly successful Sunday Market who were not in the room. I wonder what the Inner West community who visit the market might think if they knew many of the "Ordinary Members" don't like them: Too many cars in the car park, loss of trade to Reverse Garbage, don't bring their own bins, 'can't' access my office on Sunday blah blah blah. The market must be "reviewed". There must be an "audit". Good for the goose but not otherwise. Failure is fine, success is the real problem.



Abdi was returning officer for the Board election when his colleague Mamouney at Sidetrack Theatre had nominated a friendly tenant for the election. This was despite a genuinely neutral returning officer in Peter Talmacs, acting general manager, being available. Mamouney even blatantly nominated Abdi to be returning officer with no hint of embarrassment by anyone this might be a conflict of interest . Just another slick closed shop operation at the ARC.

Perhaps the reputation of our SAM news blog has preceded: The really amusing aspect was the fear of a photograph being taken by several characters and one person trying to claim it was against the law to do so without permission. In Australia. At a community centre AGM open to all 40 tenants, their friends, visitors and in effect the public generally. So much for democracy and public right to know about their 3.4 ha community centre on a lease for 50 years.

Another amusing aspect was the Bower representative Matthew (?) suggesting obtaining some free legal advice somewhere when this writer is a qualified lawyer and offering exactly that skill via a nomination to the Board, ruled ineligible (!).

Some of the honest board members like Olive and Hague looked suitably mortified albeit dumbstruck for much of the meeting. I felt sorry for them.
Unless they can wrest control off the hacks the ARC is effectively going nowhere. We may get sacked for making this report. But it's all in the public interest. Especially the rent free deal for 4 years with another 3 low rent on the sly. Talk about scandal.

Posted by editor at 10:49 PM EADT
Updated: Friday, 30 November 2007 8:30 AM EADT

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