Shire launches legal bid to sack Cr Bell
By Michael Sinclair-Jones
TOODYAY Shire CEO Stan Scott has launched legal action in Perth to disqualify Cr Ben Bell from being a councillor for up to five years.
Mr Scott has claimed to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) on behalf of the shire that Cr Bell failed to publicly apologise for five minor breaches of local government rules of conduct for comments posted on Facebook.Read more
The claim states that Cr Bell is represented (which he is paying for himself) by international law firm Squire, Patton Boggs.
At a June 12 shire public meeting attended by 24 local residents, Mr Scott said “no fees have been paid” when asked about Cr Bell’s appeals against the Local Government Standards Panel findings against him after Mr Scott made a series of formal complaints to the panel about Cr Bell’s Facebook posts.
These include a July 24 post last year in which Cr Bell accused Mr Scott of a “cash grab” for seeking to raise rates by 2.2 per cent instead of 0.9 per cent agreed by councillors the previous month (see Notice of Public Censure, Page 12).
Mr Scott filed 64 pages of papers with SAT on June 12 claiming that Cr Bell’s failure to pay appeal lodgement fees “appears to be a device to avoid fulfilling his obligations” to stand up in the council chamber and apologise for criticising him on Facebook.
Mr Scott said a 28-day period for Cr Bell to appeal against the panel’s findings expired on May 2.
However, The Herald has seen a SAT email giving Cr Bell until July 16 to pay for his appeals, which he says he will do.
Cr Bell was overseas from June 19 to July 1 as a member of a 20-member Australian Government trade delegation to Europe, including meetings with ambassadors and trade commissioners in London, Brussels, Paris, Wiesbaden and Frankfurt.
He emailed all councillors and Mr Scott’s office on June 2 that “unfortunately I will be an apology” for the June 25 council meeting because of the trade mission.
The SAT claim against Cr Bell includes a copy of his The Insider column in last month’s Herald “in which he claims that the found breaches as (sic) merely allegations intended to stifle community debate”, Mr Scott said.
“This appeal allows the State Administrative Tribunal to make orders for further sanctions under Section 5.117 (Punishment for serious breach) of the Local Government Act.
“It is requested that the SAT make orders under Section 5.117 of The Local Government Act 1995 as follows:
That Cr Benjamin Bell is suspended for a period of not more than six months; or
That Cr Benjamin Bell is for a period of not more than five years disqualified from holding office as a member of a council.”
Cr Bell was elected in 2017 to the shire’s now-abolished East Ward for a two-year term which expires in October this year.
See Cr Michael Southwell letter