By PETER HACKNEY
In a self-described “dummy spit”, City of Sydney councillor Angela Vithoulkas flagged her resignation, and blasted Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, in a bombshell email sent to the Lord Mayor and copied to all eight other councillors, as well as City of Sydney CEO Monica Barone.
In the 19 September email, obtained by the Sentinel, Small Business Party founder Vithoulkas slammed the Lord Mayor for not inviting her to a joint City of Sydney–NSW Government summit, which was billed as an initiative “to ensure retailers, cafes, bars and restaurants had the best opportunities possible across the Christmas and summer trading period”.
The summit led to the unveiling of a “post-pandemic vision” for Sydney featuring outdoor dining, live music and late night trading.
The lack of invitation, or even consultation with Vithoulkas – who has decades of hospitality experience – incensed the councillor, whose previous hospitality ventures include the award-winning Vivo Cafe on George Street, which she ran with her brother Con for 16 years until its closure in August 2018.
In her email, Vithoulkas, who has since decided to stay on as a councillor, said she had reached the end of her tether after repeated instances of exclusion and political partisanship.
“Lord Mayor, this is the most difficult email I have written in my eight years as a councillor,” Vithoulkas began.
“I have finally reached the end of the line when it comes to thinking for even a moment there might be a form of democracy or respect within our council,” she wrote.
“I have always been very transparent with my views [and] most councillors know that I say what I think, and if I give my word, it stands.
“What I won’t stand for anymore is the disrespect I feel has been delivered yet again to myself and the small business community within the City of Sydney.”
Vithoulkas alleged that if the summit had pertained to town planning matters, the Lord Mayor would have sought the involvement of Councillor Philip Thalis, a town planner; and that if it had related to the arts, Moore would have called upon Deputy Lord Mayor Jess Scully, an art curator and former arts festival director.
Both councillors are members of the Clover Moore Independent Team.
“Of course I know I am not on your team,” Vithoulkas wrote. “But I think it’s fairly safe to say I have more hospitality business experience than any other councillor and in fact most likely any staff at the City.”
She continued: “You should have included me. You should have done it because it was the right thing to do. It shouldn’t have been political and you know very well I would not have made it that.
“I am disappointed and frankly disgusted … with a structure that holds political media point scoring in higher regard than actually fixing a problem.”
In her missive, Vithoulkas said she was “looking into the process of resignation … because I am not sure how I could continue to be part of a council that I have lost faith in”.
The situation echoes a similar brouhaha in 2013, when the Lord Mayor sent the late Greens councillor Irene Doutney as her representative to that year’s Greek Festival of Sydney – at a time when Vithoulkas was the City’s sole councillor of Greek heritage.
Speaking to the Sentinel, Vithoulkas confirmed the contents of the recent email, and affirmed that despite her “dummy spit”, she was staying on as a councillor.
“After much reflection, I decided – excuse the language – that I couldn’t shit on my father’s memory by just giving up.
“Before he died, he got to see me elected to Council, and I know he was very proud of that, and would be so disappointed in me if I threw in the towel,” she said.
“I also feel the small business community needs strong representation at the City of Sydney, and if I left, there would be one less voice for small business, which is crying out for representation, especially after the impact of the light rail construction and delays – and now, Covid-19.”
Vithoulkas, who describes herself as “dead centre” politically, and “neither left nor right”, told the Sentinel she had always been willing to work with people from all sides of politics.
Her claim appears to be supported by the 21 September election for the role of Deputy Lord Mayor, where councillors from across the political spectrum voted to appoint Vithoulkas to the role.
Five of the City’s ten councillors – Labor councillor Linda Scott, Liberal councillors Craig Chung and Christine Forster, independent councillor Kerryn Phelps, and Vithoulkas herself – voted for Vithoulkas, leading to a tie with the Clover Moore-backed councillor Jess Scully, who also received five votes, all from Clover Moore Independent Team councillors.
The process then went to a hat draw to break the tie, with Scully winning the draw.
“The support from the other councillors reaffirmed that there is a role at Council for independent voices such as mine, and helped me form the decision to stay,” Vithoulkas said.
“I would like to thank those councillors for their support, and pledge to do my very best to continue my work in an independent, fair and bipartisan way,” she said.
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has been contacted for comment.
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