KALAMUNDA COUNCILLOR JUMPS SHIP & SHIFTS THE BLAME

The Kalamunda Reporter’s (p.3, 26/9/17) latest article regarding the alleged failure of four Kalamunda Councillors to properly disclose their financial interests and their remaining in the Council Chambers to debate and vote on a scheme amendment which affected their own properties (Scheme Amendment 82, Dual Density Codes), will not make for welcome reading by the Mayor, Cr Andrew Waddell.

Cr Tracy Destree, who is one of Cr Waddell’s strongest supporters on Council, makes two noteworthy statements which are at significant variance with the public comments of Cr Waddell on this issue.

Firstly, Cr Destree states “It appears there has been a significant error” regarding Councillors declarations and their decision to remain in the Council Chambers to debate and vote upon a scheme amendment about which they had previously disclosed a direct financial interest (i.e. which affected their own properties). By way of contrast Cr Waddell has stated that “. . . councillors were well within their rights to stay in council to debate and vote on the item . . .” (The Echo, 16/9/17).

Secondly, Cr Destree claims the advice upon which Councillors based their decision to change their declaration and to remain in the Council Chambers and vote upon the scheme amendment “. . . was an extract of the Department’s Handbook and not from the Local Government Act.” Cr Waddell by contrast stated “The Department of Local Government gives very specific advice and we follow that advice to the letter.” (The Kalamunda Reporter, 29/8/17).

Regarding these two sets of statements two points should be noted. Firstly, either there has been a “significant error”, as Cr Destree claims, or alternatively, councillors have done nothing wrong, as claimed by Cr Waddell. But Crs Destree & Waddell can’t both be correct. Secondly, the Department’s Handbook only provides very general advice and as Cr Destree correctly implies, is not the equivalent of qualified legal advice regarding the Local Government Act.

Most of Cr Destree’s comments seek to shift the blame for her own actions to the City’s staff who, she claims, provided poor advice. She states the CEO “provided advice received from the City’s governance manager” and “that advice was confirmed in writing and circulated in the week before the council meeting.” Whether there is any veracity to this claim will have to await the outcome of an FOI application or Cr Destree publicly releasing the email she refers to. At the time of writing other Councillors are privately contradicting Cr Destree stating they have searched back through their emails and are unable to find any such email from the CEO.

There are many questions of detail which remain unanswered at this point in time. Hopefully, the following questions by this writer, which were taken on notice at last night’s OCM (26/9/17) will shed further light on this unpleasant saga.

Mr Mayor, prior to the OCM of the 27/6/16, scheme amendment 82 was considered on three occasions, those being the 26th October 2015, 7th June2016 and 20th June 2016.

(1) At the 2015 meeting you declared a direct financial interest, and as per the requirements of the Act, left the Chamber, did not participate in the debate or vote. At the next meeting, on the 7th June 2016, you made no declaration, chaired and voted during the meeting. At the meeting of the 20th June 2016, you declared a direct financial interest and chaired the meeting. Were you not aware that a declaration of a direct financial interest requires a Councillor to absent themselves from the Council Chamber whilst an item is debated and voted upon?

(2) At the OCM of the 27th June 2016 you changed your declaration to an interest in common and at the next OCM where scheme amendment 82 was considered, held on the 26th June 2017, changed it once more to a direct financial interest and vacated the Council Chamber. If your claim, as reported in The Echo of the 16th September 2017 (p. 1), is correct, that “councillors were well within their rights to stay in council to debate and vote on the item” at the meeting of the 27th June 2016 is correct, why did you then change your declaration at the subsequent OCM of the 26th June 2017 to a direct financial interest.

(3) In the article published in The Kalamunda Reporter of the 29th August, 2017, (p.1), you are quoted as stating that “The Department of Local Government gives very specific advice and we followed that advice to the letter”. Will you:

(a) place on the public record the very specific advice you claim to have received from the Department of Local Government in order to enable your claims to be verified; and

(b) explain how such very specific advice from the Department account for the very inconsistent declarations between the OCM’s of the 27th June 2016 and the 26th June 2017?

(4) The interest in common provisions of the Local Government Act are contained in Section 5.63(1) of the Act. How do you reconcile using a declaration of an interest in common at the OCM of the 27th June 2016 with subsection (3) of S. 5.63, when it explicitly rules out Councillors using such a declaration in the case of a scheme amendment?

Edited & authorised by F Lindsey, 95 Aldersyde Rd., Piesse Brook, WA 6076

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