I HAVE visited Toodyay for many years and taken an interest in Toodyay happenings and have often read The Herald.
Recently I read and heard several residents/ratepayers complain about the negativity of articles in The Toodyay Herald and the campaign by the Toodyay Progress Association (TPA) against the previous councillors and the previous CEO.
It was expressed that these actions were affecting the wellbeing of councillors and the CEO.
It was also claimed to having had a damaging effect on the attractiveness of Toodyay as a place to settle.Read more
As a result of the investigations by the TPA, the Department of Local Government Sport and Culture acted, and an investigation was launched into the shire.
The investigation took some time and I believe council was told nothing would come of it.
Last month, the inquiry was tabled, in parliament.
The report findings showed there was just cause for concern in the lack of accountability and transparency in the administration, that decisions were made contrary to the Local Government Act and there was a lack in councillors understanding their role and that of council.
The report findings were extensive and included:
- More than half a million dollars spent on pursuing legal matters in court, much of which the report found questionable,
- Councillors failing in their role to oversee ratepayers’ funds,
- The inappropriate treatment by the CEO of a councillor and,
- The awarding of contracts contrary to WA local government law.
In reading the report there appeared a culture in council to accept information provided by the previous CEO, and in several situations the council failed to question the validity of the information supplied or question financial payments.
I believe it was important for the community to know how and what decisions were being made by council and the effect these decisions had on the financial viability of the shire.
The TPA investigation revealed questionable practices and The Herald informed the community.
However, some in the community disapproved of The Herald’s reporting.
It was claimed articles were untruthful, defamatory, and unjustifiably condemning and targeting of the then councillors and previous CEO.
Surprisingly, there were no legal challenges but the comments of unjust, untruthful, biased reporting by The Herald, relentlessly persisted.
There was also condemnation of the TPA’s constant questioning of council.
It was disappointing that it took an inquiry to reveal the inappropriate practices by the previous CEO and the inability of the previous council to uphold the principles of accountability and transparency as listed in the shire’s Community Strategic Plan.
I have been told that on social media councillors, who are still on council and were a part of the investigation, are being asked to resign.
These councillors are in control of their moral conscience indicator – it is their choice.
Either way, the community will have their chance to decide at the next election if they remain and decide to re-stand.
The Toodyay community was extremely fortunate to have had the TPA and The Herald to expose what was happening in the council and the administration.
It was disappointing that sections of the community did not support them and that they were criticised for their perspective and persistence.
The inquiry vindicated the actions of both The Herald and the TPA.
I congratulate the TPA for its persistence and resistance to calls to stop their actions and I also congratulate The Herald in publishing an accurate account of the issues.
Hopefully, the present council and administration will work to bring about change in a culture that led to the inappropriate practices as reported in the inquiry.