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Former Liberal MP and Ryde mayor Ivan Petch to front court on blackmail charges

Former Ryde mayor Ivan Petch has vowed to clear his name in court. Photo: Anthony Johnson Ivan Petch prepares to front ICAC in 2014. Photo: Ben Rushton
Nanjing Night Net

Ivan Petch stands outside the Ryde Civic Centre, which became the focus of an ICAC inquiry. Photo: Simon Alekna

A former Liberal state MP and Sydney mayor will face court on Monday to determine if he should be committed to stand trial for blackmail and misconduct in public office.

Ivan Petch was Ryde mayor when, in 2012, a controversial redevelopment of the Ryde Civic Centre triggered a series of flash points that later became the subject of a two-week hearing by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Mr Petch now faces a range of charges arising from the inquiry, including two counts of blackmail, misconduct in public office and giving false or misleading evidence to ICAC.

Mr Petch lashed out at the corruption watchdog last week for having “discoloured” his “whole career in one fell swoop”.

“I have spent 37 years serving the people and, in that time, I have always acted in the interests of the community,” he said. “I have stood by them all the way through.”

After losing his state seat of Gladesville in the 1995 election to Labor’s John Watkins by the narrow margin of 250 votes, Mr Petch became an independent councillor who went on to serve six terms as Ryde mayor.

However, in 2013, ICAC investigated Mr Petch over the alleged release of confidential council information “on many occasions for various reasons” but most notably to “undermine” council employees such as the former general manager John Neish.

During the inquiry, a phone tap was played of Mr Petch threatening to “destroy” Mr Neish. It emerged that, a short time later, sensitive material was leaked in a bid to discredit the council’s head, after he refused to delay a high-rise residential redevelopment plan for council’s ageing civic centre.

Mr Petch, who is charged with one count of misconduct in public office for allegedly releasing that material, has also been charged with “being an accessory before the fact of a count of blackmail” in relation to the alleged threat, for which property developer John Goubran is also facing a blackmail charge.

Mr Petch is also facing a separate charge of blackmail for allegedly attempting to improperly influence Mr Neish’s acting replacement Danielle Dickson after her predecessor quit.

The then mayor allegedly threatened Ms Dickson that councillors, including himself, would block her application for the permanent position if she failed to resolve an ongoing Supreme Court costs dispute in their favour.

Mr Petch’s three-day committal hearing will be heard in Sydney Local Court by Deputy Chief Magistrate Jane Mottley.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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