Who’s in charge?
JULIMAR farmer Brian Rayner never wanted to be shire president, and didn’t even want to run for council at last year’s shire elections.Read more
He was talked into it by people close to former shire president David Dow, who lost his Central Ward seat by an absolute majority in a record voter turn-out.
“What do we do now?” Cr Rayner was overheard to ask the defeated president at the declaration of the polls, in which Cr Rayner was elected unopposed in North Ward without having to face voters.
The answer was to run for the top job – which Shire Deputy President Therese Chitty thought she had in the bag – in a secret ballot at the next council meeting.
In a two-way contest, Cr Rayner won the presidency 5-4 with the support of the former president’s wife, Cr Judy Dow.
So we have a shire president who didn’t want to be a councillor, who didn’t have to face the polls and who seems increasingly reluctant to be the public face of a council under seige from ratepayers for wasting public money and raising rates.
Take for example this year’s budget, when the shire went from a recommended rate increase of 0 to 2.2 per cent in less than a month, and six councillors totally ignored a petition signed by 2000 electors – nearly two thirds of the shire electorate.
Herald questions to the shire president went unanswered, leaving Deputy President Chitty to respond in a limited way because under council standing orders, only the president is authorised to speak publicly on behalf of the shire.
Fast forward to this month when President Rayner declined a Herald request to comment on a matter of environmental and road safety concern after WA Nationals MP Shane Love said he was “utterly opposed” to Toodyay becoming a putrescible waste dump for millions of tonnes of Perth garbage.
And as for the $36,500 wasted on legal fees in yet another botched court case, forget it – our shire president used the same lame excuse as his predecessor that “legal advice is confidential”.
Except that it isn’t – everything said that costly day in the Northam Magistrate’s Court in the middle of shire budget deliberations is on the public record.
It includes a letter from the shire CEO to a Toodyay ratepayer that Magistrate Jennifer Hawkins described as “absolutely shocking”, “duplicitous” and a “bombshell”.
Our own elected representatives knew nothing about this until the cost was revealed in public question time at last month’s council meeting, and most probably still won’t know the whole story until they read it in this month’s Herald.
President Rayner pledged at his first council meeting in the chair last year to be a “new broom” in council, “but will try not to sweep too clean”.
That isn’t good enough Mr President, and we’re still waiting.