‘Bizarre’ shire decision blamed on ‘personality politics’
May 29 interview* by ABC Radio Perth Breakfast Show presenters Nadia Mitsopoulos and Russell Woolf (left) with Toodyay Progress Association Chair Larry Graham the morning after a surprise council decision to allow Shire CEO Stan Scott to keep his job for another 12 months.
RUSSELL: Larry Graham is a former state MP who is now the Chair of the Toodyay Progress Association and Larry we appreciate you being with us this morning.
Now how did you react to this news when you heard about it last night?
Larry: (laughs) Nearly as humorously as I reacted to President Rayner’s comments this morning.Read more
I mean look, this is sincerely a bizarre proposition.
What we had was, we had a council – let’s go back a step, the Toodyay Progress Association doesn’t focus on personalities, it focuses on policies, processes and procedures.
Now we have a council that decided some time ago the process is it was going to go through to hire or look for new CEO or to see whether they would hire the old one again.
They went through that and they actually got that right.
That didn’t last one month.
They went through those processes and then they changed their mind, and since then it’s just been bouncing off both extremes of the nonsense, and I suspect that a lot of the councillors are putting their personal friendships and their personal interests ahead of the community interest, and that deeply concerns me.
Nadia: What concerns you about that, why does that matter?
Larry: Well because the Corruption and Crime Commission last year put out a report to all shire councillors and said this is one of the reasons that it is warning all shire councils that it needs to take action to ensure that shire councillors understand the need to have robust procedures and put the public interest ahead of personal interests.
Now when the top corruption watchdog warns every council about that and then I see it happening I get very, very concerned Nadia.
Nadia: And we have seen the impact of personality politics in local government and look at the City of Perth, because that is the classic example where personalities got in the way of the job that councillors are supposed to do and that entire council got suspended.
Larry: Rank amateurs in the City of Perth – that’s one of the things Toodyay does far better than the City of Perth I can tell you (laughs).
Look, this is the genuine issue.
We have a Shire President who was not elected under the dodgy old ward system that we oppposed and ultimately got rid of.
He was elected uncontested.
The rest of the councillors who were on there in this little cabal that is voting this way disruptively have between them 3 to 5 per cent of the vote of ratepayers in the Shire of Toodyay.
Now that is not democratic and it’s quite bizarre and they are accountable to nobody.
Now the power of CEOs is one of the fundamental matters that needs to be overhauled in the Local Government Act.
Nadia: On the flipside Larry Graham, a council is entitled to change its mind and so on reflection it could be that councillors have thought about it and said ‘actually no, let’s stick with it and we’ll save $2000 in the process’ and some might listen and go ‘and that’s fair enough’.
Russell: We’ve seen local governments where there is sometimes is a rusty cog in the machine, you know, and it might be that there is a councillor that was perhaps being irritable and that councillor is moved and will make for a smoother council?
Larry: Yep,Yep. Look, there is no doubt about that – all of those things happen in local government and councils are entitled to change their mind and I am really looking forward to hearing why our council changed its mind.
Now look you have to understand that the Shire of Toodyay – despite all the allegations that President Rayner made about who is doing what and how in the local newspaper and all of that nonsense – the Toodyay Progress Association put a series of matters before the Local Government Department and said these are concerning and need to be investigated.
The council was given the opportunity to refute all of those and could not do it, so the Government then launched an inquiry into the Shire of Toodyay.
This isn’t a case of the Shire of Toodyay being 100 per cent correct and everyone else wrong.
There has already been a preliminary investigation that has shown that there are enough matters there that warrant investigation and there has been three investigators working full time since of December.
This is not a trivial matter.
This is a serious matter and I make this point, our council since December, when the inquiry was announced, our council has still not met to discuss the implications of a formal inquiry into the Shire of Toodyay. Now that is bizarre behaviour.
Larry: Yeah, it’s bizarre isn’t it?
They just haven’t met to discuss why they are being formally investigated and you heard President Rayner saying that he has spoken to WALGA (WA Local Government Association) and WALGA had offered this up.
WALGA is the Local Government Association, it is not the regulating department.
Nadia: No, that is the department and Larry there are a few people texting the program saying that if you are so concerned why don’t you, and you’re an experienced politician, why don’t you put up your hand for council?
Larry: Yep, that’s a fair call, fair call.
There is a reason for that – it is quite simple.
The history of Toodyay for 40 years has been people going onto council and rotating councillors and CEOs.
It’s got one of the highest turnovers of staff and councillors in the state and I made a judgment decision when I started the TPA that we could do better by being the voice of the community in the town and keeping the pressure on the council to deal with things professionally and properly.
As soon as you become a councillor you are controlled, restricted and you have different obligations placed on what you can and can’t do.
That’s a valid thing that people are putting forward but I am not going to do it.
We are going to run the Progress Association and we are going to keep pressure on the council to operate professionally.
*Reproduced by permission of ABC Radio Perth.