E-scooter inquiry meeting hits red light

Most Adelaide City Councillors have declined to attend the special meeting called to discuss an independent inquiry into an allegedly tainted tender process for Adelaide CBD e-scooter permits.

Jan 22, 2020, updated Jan 22, 2020
E-scooters company RIDE was one of two that won permits to operate in the city until February 2022. Photo: Ride / Facebook

E-scooters company RIDE was one of two that won permits to operate in the city until February 2022. Photo: Ride / Facebook

Three councillors signed an order this week, compelling council CEO Mark Goldstone to call a special meeting to consider the appointment of an independent investigator – with no previous association to the council’s administration – to assess the tender process that will result in e-scooter company Beam banished from the CBD from next month.

Beam had raised serious allegations that the selection process was unfair and tainted – allegations Goldstone has strongly denied. Fellow unsuccessful bidder Lime submitted its own complaint about the process last week.

This morning, Goldstone emailed the three councillors – Phil Martin, Anne Moran and Robert Simms – informing them that eight out of the 11 Adelaide City Councillors would not be available for the meeting, scheduled for tomorrow night.

It means there would not be the required number of councillors to legally proceed with the meeting.

In an email response, copied to all councillors, Martin conceded it would be a “waste of Council resources to proceed with the meeting” without a quorum, but said that he, Simms and Moran were “bitterly disappointed” by the outcome.

“On the matter of the deepening controversy over the e-scooter tender process and the allegedly prejudiced … inquiry into the administration’s actions, I advise I will now lodge the request for an elected member initiated, independent inquiry as a motion on notice for members to discuss at the next meeting of Council in the hope there will not be an attempt to reject the motion or, as so often happens in this Council, to shut down any debate,” Martin wrote.

He added that he would bring a motion to the next regular council meeting for an independent, elected member-initiated inquiry into the tender process.

Responding to Martin’s email, Deputy Lord Mayor Alex Hyde wrote that the group should have canvassed their colleagues’ availability before ordering the special meeting.

“If you genuinely wished to have a Special Meeting you would have canvassed council members’ availability first, and called it for a workable time,” Hyde wrote, adding that he would have been available to attend.

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But he described the subjects of the proposed meeting – the e-scooters tender and whether to cancel the Australia Day fireworks display – as “non-issues anyway”.

Martin sent a subsequent email this afternoon, arguing that the meeting was proposed for Thursday because the fireworks were scheduled for this weekend – and because of “the pressing need to address the deepening controversy around serious allegations about the Council tender process and investigation associated with e-scooters”.

Hyde’s appearance on radio earlier this month, discussing the review of the e-scooter tender process, formed part of Lime’s complaint.

Lime had quoted Hyde as saying “I don’t expect there to be any issues with it (the tender) … everything that goes through that team is essentially watertight” on FIVEaa radio on January 10 – comments the company said appeared to “presuppose the outcome of the review”.

But Hyde said yesterday that his comments on the radio were informed by his understanding that the tender process and the review were both conducted with a high degree of probity.

He added that his comments had no influence, whatsoever, on the review.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story said there were 12 Adelaide City councillors. There are, in fact, 11 city councillors; the original figure erroneously included the Lord Mayor.

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