By Michael Sinclair-Jones
FORMER Toodyay shire CEO Stan Scott (left) has been slammed for costly financial mismanagement, conflict of interest and unethical conduct in an official report tabled in State Parliament today.
More than half of the report’s 25 adverse findings after a 20-month State Government inquiry are that Mr Scott failed to manage shire finances and resources, breached local government regulations and breached the shire code of conduct with condescending and offensive behaviour.
The report also said previous councils – including under former shire president Brian Rayner (above right) who still sits on the council – had failed under local government law to conduct its relationship with Mr Scott as an employer towards an employee.
The report details Mr Scott’s role in four botched court cases that cost ratepayers more than $670,000 in legal fees, much of it to a firm that employed Mr Scott’s son.Read more
It said the shire “failed to adopt a policy to give guidance and direction to the CEO on matters concerning litigation on behalf of the council”.
The former council had failed to comply with local government regulations in February 2013 when it voted 8-0 – against Mr Scott’s written advice – to launch legal action over an “overpayment” of $150,000 to former Toodyay CEO Graham Merrick.
Mr Scott wrote that there was “no reasonable prospect of success” and that the shire should “not commence legal action”.
The report said the council gave no written reasons – as required by law – “for a decision that is significantly different from the CEO’s written recommendation”.
Mr Scott then failed a policy requirement to obtain three quotes to pursue the matter, failed to keep the council informed about costs that eventually totalled $548,000 over four years and “acted in an unethical manner by not disclosing to the council that his son is working with the legal firm that the shire has frequently engaged to provide legal services”.
The report said there was no evidence that Mr Scott had updated the council about legal costs “which would have been prudent particulartly at the time that the legal costs exceeded the sum that could potentially be recovered from Mr Merrick”.
“The CEO recommended that once proceedings started, the shire not withdraw from the matter due to the shire being liable for their own legal fees and Mr Merrick’s legal fees.”
“When the CEO was questioned about his son working with Civic Legal he stated that he had spoken with the shire president about it and the CEO didn’t consider it to be an issue.
“At no time was this conflict of interest matter documented or put to the council.”
The report said it was not an offence under the local government law “however it is unethical and not behaviour that should be expected of a CEO”.
The report also details several instances where Mr Scott failed in his “significant responsibilities” as a financial manager, including that he:
- “Failed to ensure the resources of the local government were effectively and efficiently managed”, and
- “Did not have adequate oversight of the day to day operations of the local government, and this failure by the CEO has caused or contributed to the potential unnecessary costs to the Shire of Toodyay.”
Mr Scott was also found to have breached the shire code of conduct in an email to former Cr Di Granger which prompted her shock resignation only four months after she defeated former shire president David Dow in the 2017 council elections.
Mr Scott was found to have breached a requirement to “avoid derogatory statements” by “failing to communicate in a professional manner which may (as a result) cause any reasonable person unwarranted offence or embarrassment”.
The report said Mr Scott’s tone in earlier emails to former Cr Granger was “condescending”.
When the council went behind closed doors in January 2018 to consider her motion about “managing the performance of the CEO” he “proceeded to verbally berate Ms Granger in a hostile manner to which she felt was highly inappropriate and was embarrassed”, the report said.
“At no point in time during the time of the CEO talking did the presiding member (former shire president Rayner) bring the CEO to order.
“There are indications the relationship between the council and the CEO was not functioning per the requirement of the LG Act, which should be one of employer and employee.
“There are sections of the community which were unhappy with the lack of transparency and accountability of the Shire of Toodyay.
Due to a lack of positive action by the council in relation to the CEO, the discontent within the community has culminated in the need for an inquiry.”
Two other remaining councillors who joined Cr Rayner last year to vote in favour of a surprise backflip to retain Mr Scott for another 12 months after a decision not to renew his contract are former shire deputy president Therese Chitty and Cr Paula Greenway.
Mr Scott resigned in April this year after taking two months extended sick leave for an undisclosed illness just hours before the start of the council’s February meeting.
The report recommends a governance review, councillor training with a “comprehensive” report back to the Director General of the Local Government Department on participation and outcome, independent CEO performance reviews and a review of the CEO’s authority to take legal action on behalf of the shire.
Mr Scott said he was unable to comment on the inquiry’s findings because he had not seen the report, which was yet to be published online.
Surprise announcement as lifeguards sought for planned November 1 start to town’s first summer swim season
Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst addresses a community meeting at Toodyay’s new recreation centre to announce that the town’s new swimming pool will be heated and open all year.
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
TOODYAY’S long-awaited public swimming pool will be heated in winter to enable it to stay open all year under surprise new plans announced this month by recently appointed venue manager Clublinks.
The company says it aims for swimmers to start using the pool on or before Sunday November 1 if construction finishes in time.
Lighting towers from China have been installed and site work is largely complete.
However, the company has issued a “priority” call for people to apply for jobs as lifeguards to enable the pool to open on a full schedule seven days a week as planned.Read more
Clublinks State Manager Matt Day told a public meeting of about 50 people at the Shire of Toodyay’s new $14 million recreation centre that the pool was built with heating pipes already installed.
He said later that it may cost less than $10,000 annually to keep the new 25m pool heated to about 27C.
His company would absorb the extra $150,000 to $200,000 cost of installing new equipment to keep the pool warm during Toodyay’s chilly winter months.
“We don’t want local people driving past this pool to swim in Northam because ours is not heated,” Mr Day told the meeting.
“We’d like it heated by April next year, but the worst-case scenario is by June 2021.
Mr Day said a mix of solar panels and mains power would be used for year-round water heating.
“We’ve already got quotes and are preparing a detailed business case to put to the shire,” he said.
“Running costs won’t be massive – possibly under $10,000 a year – we are still investigating the detail.”
Opening hours planned from November 1 to March 31 are 7am to 6.30pm on weekdays and 8am to 6pm weekends.
April and October next year will be 7am to 10am and 3pm to 6pm on weekdays, and 9am to 3pm on weekends.
Winter hours will be announced when heating is added.
Proposed entry fees are $5 for adults and $4 for children and concession card holders, including pensioners and seniors.
A full season pass will cost $90 for adults and $80 for children.
Tennis court hire will cost $30 an hour.
Mr Day said the new facility would give priority to employing local residents.
The workforce would consist of five or six full-time employees and four or five casuals.
“Our main priority at the moment is to recruit more lifeguards so that we can keep the pool open for the planned hours.
“We also need casual customer service staff and sports umpires for night-time basketball and other competitions, mainly starting after Christmas.”
The company has started a new Toodyay Recreation Centre Facebook page which says training is free for casual shifts starting next month.
Working as a lifeguard requires a current police check, working with children check, first aid qualifications and current aquatic lifeguard qualifications or an interest to be trained in this field
Anyone interested should email their resume and a brief introductory letter venue manager Beck Foulkes-Taylor at email@example.com
Toodyay Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst said the Toodyay Recreation Centre – including the pool – would be officially opened at with civic ceremony on Saturday November 21.
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
A REPORT on a long-running State Government inquiry into the Shire of Toodyay has been finalised and sent to WA Local Government Minister David Templeman for action.
The Minister is expected to table the inquiry’s findings in State Parliament on one of nine scheduled sitting days left this year, starting on Tuesday October 13 and ending November 19 before parliament rises for its summer recess.
An 11-month probe last year by three State Government investigators from Perth examined the operations and affairs of shire administrators and councillors over a seven-year period to December 2018.
The shire was headed during that period by former CEO Stan Scott (above, left) who resigned last April after taking two months extended sick leave at short notice just hours before the start of the council’s February meeting.
Three remaining councillors who served during the seven-year inquiry period are former shire president Brian Rayner (above, right), former shire deputy president Therese Chitty and Cr Paula Greenway.Read more
The inquiry followed 11 months of monitoring by Perth local government officials after a formal warning that the shire had shown “not only a lack of understanding of the provisions of legislation also a propensity to misinterpret other legalities and procedures”.
THE MINISTER authorised the inquiry to examine:
- the adequacy of and adherence to council policies and procedures by elected members and administration staff;
- enforcement actions undertaken by the Shire of Toodyay;
the function of the audit committee;
- declarations of interests by elected members;
- the culture within the shire, and
- any other matter that comes to the person’s attention during the inquiry.
The investigation included the loss of more than $570,000 of ratepayers’ money in a failed legal action against two former shire leaders, other botched court cases that cost tens of thousands of dollars, unlawful rates, a failed bid to sell O’Reilly’s Cottage for $530,000 and the resignation of former Cr Di Granger amid allegations of bullying.
Investigators attended council meetings, examined shire records and questioned witnesses during their probe.
A draft report on the findings was sent to the State Solicitor’s Office earlier this year to decide if any prosecutions should occur.
A confidential edited version was sent to councillors in July for comment before a final report was forwarded to the Minister.
The State will publish the findings when they are tabled in Parliament.
New Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst said it was likely the findings would also be published on the shire website.
Notorious local bushranger Moondyne Joe (Greg Warburton) begs for clemency and receives a Royal Pardon after ambushing WA Governor Kim Beazley near Toodyay Railway Station during a low-key Vice-Regal visit this month to promote Avon Valley regional tourism.
WA Governor Kim Beazley made an unannounced visit to Toodyay this month as part of a low-key Vice-Regal tour of the Avon Valley to promote regional tourism.
Mr Beazley, who earned the nickname “Bomber” for his love of all things military while Labor federal defence minister from 1984 to 1990, also visited Beverley, York, Northam and Chittering.
Toodyay was his last stop, and he joined a small entourage of local civic representatives and Vice-Regal staff on the town’s historic Convict Depot walk from the Visitor Centre to Newcastle Gaol Museum.
On a return trip via the Duke Street railway footbridge he called at the Christmas shop, Uniquely Toodyay and bakery.
Toodyay was the last stop of the tour and when asked what the Governor thought of our town, a local civic leader said “he loved it”.
By Rob Koch
Community Emergency Services Manager (left)
A DRY winter means that parts of our shire are now already as dry as last summer as we approach what is expected to be a high-risk fire season.
Low rainfall and the onset of warmer weather means conditions will continue to become even drier at a faster rate than is normal at this time of the year.
This assessment is measured by a ‘soil dryness index’ which correlates to the flammability of vegetation.
Less moisture in the ground means the vegetation above will burn faster and more intensely.
That’s why it is essential for everyone in the shire to comply with the prohibited burning period that will apply from Sunday November 1, and current burning restrictions which began at the start of this month.Read more
Anyone now wanting to light a fire – no matter how small – must first obtain a shire permit with strict conditions which must be adhered to.
Permits generally require at least two independent sources of pressurised water – such as a mobile firefighting unit on the back of a ute.
For example, a single hose supplying water from an electric pump connected to a mains electricity supply is insufficient because a power cut will stop the flow of water.
People who obtain permission to light fires this month are required by law to ensure it is
done correctly – failure to do so may result in an infringement notice or prosecution.
All fires must be carefully watched and managed at all times until they are completely extinguished.
This is particularly important for people with small ‘lifestyle’ bush blocks who may live elsewhere and visit Toodyay only on weekends and holidays.
Most local farmers will have already completed their burning-off and we find it is generally smaller landholders who want to burn at this time of the year.
Volunteer firefighters have arrived at bushfires in recent years to find a locked gate and the owner gone after leaving the smouldering remains of a fire that later re-ignited and burnt out of control.
Police involvement is likely in such cases of negligence.
Bush fire control officers appointed by the shire will assess all applications for permits in line with local conditions.
If issued, a permit lasts up to seven days but that doesn’t automatically mean that a fire can be safely lit at all timMinister gets final report on Toodyay inquiry findingses during that period.
It is essential that anyone with a permit to light a fire should first check local weather conditions before starting.
Local wind forecasts need to be checked to ensure they remain light for the duration of a fire and that no change of direction is predicted.
Some people mistakenly assume that a forecast of rain means it is safe to light a fire but in fact it usually indicates strengthening winds and a change of direction.
Look for low and consistent winds over the entire period of a fire.
I highly recommend that people use the Bureau of Meteorology’s MetEye online weather forecasts to check three-hourly predictions for wind strength and direction, relative humidity and temperature.
Burning should occur according to conditions – not the calendar.
If in doubt, it is better not to burn at all and wait until conditions improve.
I would also like to remind all local property owners that they have until Saturday November 1 to ensure their properties comply with the Shire of Toodyay’s annual Fire-Break Notice.
Perimeter firebreaks are not designed to prevent fires from spreading but to allow safe and ready access for firefighting vehicles responding to emergency callouts.
Firebreak notices also include other requirements such as removing overhanging branches from buildings and maintaining low fuel areas around buildings.
Shire rangers will start checking properties from Sunday November 1.
Ratepayers and occupiers risk fines if they are found to be in breach of their firebreak notices.
Everyone is urged to play their part to help our community prepare for this year’s fire season.
This includes preparing your property, discussing your fire plan with your family and keeping abreast of restrictions, alerts and warnings.
Visit emergency.wa.gov.au and listen to ABC local radio to stay abreast of Total Fire Ban information, alerts and warnings.
The shire’s free SMS service provides information on harvest, vehicle movement and hot works bans, other restrictions imposed by bush fire control officers or changes to prohibited or restricted burning periods – simply SMS the word BANS to 0408 017 439 to subscribe.
Your efforts can greatly help our dedicated volunteer firefighters to keep our community safe and protect lives and property.
Anyone interested in joining a volunteer bush fire brigade to learn valuable new skills with a great team of like-minded people should contact their local brigade or the shire.
More information is available on the shire website at toodyay.wa.gov.au and the WA Department of Fire and Emergency Services at dfes.wa.gov.au.
LOCAL swimming instructor Colleen Sheehan (pictured) can’t wait to jump into Toodyay’s new 25m pool which is planned to open at the end of November.
The long-awaited aquatic centre includes a big wading pool for young families to cool off under shade in hot summer months and a kiosk for drinks and snacks.
The eight-lane pool is a part of a new $14 million sport and recreation complex now largely complete after 13 months’ construction next to the town’s school.
Contractors are putting finishing touches to the project while awaiting delivery of new lighting towers being shipped from China.
(Read on for more pictures)Read more
A large new wading pool under shade for young families to cool off during Toodyay’s hot dry summer months.
Four new multi-purpose basketball and netball courts with pavilion and changeroooms behind.
Pavilion view of four new multi-purpose basketball and netball courts.
Builders check plans inside spacious new community pavilion and changerooms.
Anyone for tennis? There’ll be plenty of room for everyone on Toodyay’s four new synthetic courts.
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
A NEW local business campaign to attract more Perth tourists to Toodyay has reached more than 20,000 people on Facebook and attracted 100 ‘shares’ in just a single week.
The Toodyay Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s latest campaign features a new 40-second promotional video (above) similar to last year’s successful Four Seasons series.
The new video is part-funded by a $5000 State Government grant to help local businesses recover from WA’s Covid-19 lockdown which forced local cafes, restaurants, hotels and other accommodation providers to shut in April and May this year.Read more
Chamber committee member Bob Schrader said the remaining funds would be used to promote the chamber’s Toodyay Dollars campaign to encourage more people to buy locally in the shire.
The chamber’s Facebook video was launched on August 22 and reached nearly 10,000 people in the first three days.
It was shared 100 times, including by the WA Regional Chamber of Commerce, which encouraged its 7500 members to share the Toodyay video with thousands more online viewers across the state.
The video is also being promoted on Facebook by Targa West, which has 13,500 online subscribers and is running its annual car rally through Toodyay on Saturday October 24.
Mr Schrader said the new campaign is aimed at people who live within a 75km radius of Perth’s central business district.
“We aim to encourage more people from the greater metropolitan area to take a one-hour trip to experience Toodyay,” he said.
The September promotion is being run alongside the chamber’s Toodyay Dollars campaign which was launched in 2018 and has attracted more than $10,000 in sales for the chamber’s 50 local business partners.
Toodyay Dollars can be bought – dollar for dollar – across the counter at the town’s Bendigo Bank in Stirling Terrace for use as gifts and prizes to be spent at local shops and businesses throughout the shire.
Traders can return spent Toodyay Dollars to the bank for the amount to be credited back to their accounts.
Toodyay Dollars are available as $10, $20 and $50 notes but can’t be exchanged at shops for cash.
New participants wanting to join the Toodyay ‘buy local’ scheme can do so free of charge simply by joining the chamber.
Mr Schrader said the program is being managed by local bank manager and chamber treasurer Kirsten Barrack and is separate to normal banking business.
He said Toodyay business activity had “certainly picked up” since the end of the pandemic lockdown in July, as shown by the increased numbers of weekend visitors spending their money in local shops and at other tourism outlets.
June Herald flashback: John Clarke (left) and Mick McKeown (elected Toodyay Shire Councillor in July) in the Garden of Peace with the disputed heritage-listed walkway behind – both have been at least temporarily saved from partial demolition.
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
TOODYAY’S heritage-listed Catholic Precinct walkway has been saved from partial demolition – at least for the present.
Shire councillors voted 7-0 last month to reject a Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Perth application to demolish a two-metre section in the middle of the walkway.Read more
The Appian Way walkway links Toodyay’s historic 1903 Mercy Convent to the town’s St John the Baptist Catholic Church and straddles two new land titles created to separate the buildings.
The Archdiocese sought partial demolition of the walkway to enable it to sell the run-down convent for private commercial redevelopment.
The plan also demolishes part of an adjacent Garden of Peace which was built to commemorate deceased parishioners.
Last month’s council decision sets it at odds with the Perth Archdiocese which recently axed 100-year-old trees and built new roads to service a new small business estate behind the old convent.
‘No comment’ – Church
A Perth Church spokesman said the Archdiocese had “no comment at this time”.
Councillors were presented last month with two shire recommendations – a deferred July shire recommendation to approve demolition, and a last-minute “alternative” recommendation to reject the plan which was not published online or provided to the public gallery.
Councillors went straight to the alternative recommendation, which was moved by Cr Ben Bell, seconded by former Catholic Precinct activist and newly elected Cr Mick McKeown and carried unanimously (Crs Therese Chitty and Paula Greenway absent).
The decision said the proposed demolition was “inconsistent with the orderly and proper planning of the locality” and inconsistent with shire heritage planning policy.
The decision was a victory for Toodyay Catholic parishioners who formed a Friends of the Catholic Precinct action group after the shire’s surprise 2018 decision to approve the subdivision of a heritage site without public consultation.
Former Shire CEO Stan Scott used his delegated authority to approve the subdivision without referring it to the council or informing parishioners.
It prompted former State MP Larry Graham to present a formal submission alleging collusion and secrecy to the July council meeting.
“In my view, the handling of this entire issue exceeds the threshold required for referral to either or both the CCC (WA Crime and Corruption Commission) or the LG (State Local Government Department),” he told councillors.
New Shire CEO Suzie Haslehurst told The Herald after last month’s council decision that she had started to look at Mr Graham’s allegations and spoken to other shire officers involved.
“I’d be very surprised if anything came out of it,” she said.
“My preliminary findings are that due process was followed – it suggests no evidence of collusion.”
Shire President Rosemary Madacsi said: “I don’t believe any further action is needed.”
Mr Graham responded that “allegations of the type that I raised formally with the council require formal, thorough and competent investigation”.
Last month’s council decision followed several months of confusion after the shire initially advertised a plan submitted by the Archdiocese to demolish the whole walkway.
It attracted 23 public submissions with 19 against, including objections from the Toodyay Historical Society and several leading local ratepayers.
The State Planning, Lands and Heritage Department said the original subdivision application did not show the walkway.
A senior departmental official said the WA Planning Commission (WAPC) did not know the walkway existed when it approved the subdivision subject to conditions in June 2018.
“The application has not received final approval, however it is understood conditions are in the process of being carried out,” Regional South Land Use Planning Director Cath Meaghan said.
“Had the WAPC known there was a walkway in that location, it would not have made the decision it did because it is not feasible to have shared structures (eg: swimming pools, pergolas, etc.) on separate titles.
“So although the proposed subdivision seeks to separate the church buildings in a land titles sense, the shire’s planning intent is for the precinct to continue to function as a whole.”
Ms Meaghan said that in considering finalisation of the subdivision, the WAPC would be “mindful” of proposed planning arrangements to redevelop the precinct “in a manner that retains the heritage values of the site and allows for continued connection between the buildings”.
The fencing of lots between heritage buildings would “generally not be permitted unless it provides for ongoing pedestrian access” Ms Meaghan said.