Grand Prix promotion So spends ratepayers money in race for reelection next year

John So came under fire for what is seen as misuse of council funds to help promote John So in the lead to next years Lord Mayor Race.

Two weeks ago John So unilaterally authorised the expenditure of $100,000 of un-budgeted funding. It was only after complaints from fellow councillors that john So was forced to hold a special council meeting to seek approval of the extraordinary payment.

Cr Clarke has come out criticizing the deal struck between the Lord Mayor and the Grand Prix corporation as a means of John So securing a prominent role in this years Grand prix event in return for the City Council agreeing to foot the $100,000 bill for the extravaganza promo.

Jon So reputation as “the man that can not say No” continues unabated.

Council funds used to promote So, say critics
Clay Lucas, The Age
February 27, 2007

LORD Mayor John So used council money to buy a prominent media role in this week’s Grand Prix warm-up in Carlton, according to his Town Hall critics.

A draft contract between Melbourne City Council and the Australian Grand Prix Corporation, obtained yesterday by The Age, shows a condition of the council’s $100,000 sponsorship of Saturday’s Ferrari Festival was that the Lord Mayor be guaranteed a prominent role.

“Is sponsorship of an event like this meant to be about promoting the City of Melbourne or the Lord Mayor?” said Cr Fraser Brindley.

“The State Government sponsors plenty of events, but does Steve Bracks get a guarantee to speak?” he said.

On Saturday, 60 vintage Ferraris and a Formula One car will drive down Lygon Street, to promote the Grand Prix on March 18.

Leaked internal emails show that council officers demanded in December that Cr So be given a role in Saturday’s event if it were to go ahead.

The council also requested that, as part of the sponsorship deal, the Lord Mayor and his chief executive, David Pitchford, get tickets to the Grand Prix’s $2970-a-head Paddock Club — touted on the event’s website as “the ultimate in corporate hospitality”.

The deal was drafted in January — a month before councillors other than Cr So or his deputy, Gary Singer, were told about the event. The contract also guarantees Cr Singer “an official role at the launch”.

Cr Peter Clarke said the sponsorship was proof council funds were being used to promote John So. “This smacks of buying media opportunities,” Cr Clarke said.

Cr So and his embattled chief executive, whose contract is up for negotiation, earlier this month decreed that Melbourne City Council sponsor the event — despite internal advice that the council could not afford it.

No other councillors were told about the deal until February 6, despite Cr So and his chief executive having agreed to it in December.

The Lord Mayor last night said he had not “bought” media opportunities, arguing that officers must have negotiated media opportunities for him without consulting him.

“I am passionate about promoting Melbourne — I have no other motives,” Cr So said.

The internal council emails also reveal that it was negotiating with VicRoads over a 100 km/h drive-through for the Formula One car in the event.

Grand Prix chief executive Tim Bamford and Cr Singer have repeatedly denied their organisations had discussed a speed limit of 100 km/h for the Formula One car.