National

Ex-Sydney mayor guilty of blackmail bid

By AAP Newswire

A former Sydney mayor has been found guilty of trying to blackmail a senior colleague over a legal costs issue.

Ivan Petch, 79, had denied making an unwarranted demand with menaces with the intention of influencing the exercise of public duty while working as City of Ryde mayor in May 2013.

Petch was alleged to have told then-acting council general manager Danielle Dickson to settle a court costs case in a way favourable to him as she would need his help to permanently retain her position.

His barrister, Graham Turnbull SC, argued it was not an "unwarranted demand" but rather "fatherly advice".

But after more than three days of deliberations, a NSW District Court jury on Friday unanimously found him guilty of the charge.

Crown prosecutor Donna Daleo said Petch made "a threat of something detrimental or unpleasant" to Ms Dickson when he told her council should pay his costs and those of other councillors who were defendants in a NSW Supreme Court lawsuit involving former council boss John Neish.

Ms Dickson testified Petch told her it was important she settle it in a way favourable to him, given she'd need his help to secure the permanent role.

In response, she told Petch they should not be discussing the issue.

"He'd gone very red-faced and seemed quite shocked and said to me that I needed to be very careful how I managed the costs issues," Ms Dickson said, adding that he "zeroed in" on her face.

She told the jury she had received legal advice at the time and decided each party should pay their own costs.

Ms Daleo said Petch pursued Ms Dickson into the night, asking if she'd "had a chance" to reconsider his advice.

"If this really was just a fatherly chat, couldn't he have waited until business hours the next day?" the prosecutor said.

The jury heard Ms Dickson reported the incident to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Judge Nicole Noman has ordered the preparation of a community corrections assessment report on Petch.

She continued his bail and he will face a sentence hearing at Campbelltown District Court on December 10.