Let’s remember, it’s we, the people, who call the shots
By Ben Bell
IT WOULD be funny, if it wasn’t so serious.
Funny? Perhaps bemusing is a better way to describe the situation.
Either way, it does appear to have all the hallmarks of a classic John Cleese or Rowan Atkinson British TV comedy skit.
You see, last month the complaints officer for the Shire of Toodyay applied to the State Administrative Tribunal (SAT) on behalf of the shire to have me disqualified as a councillor for up to five years.Read more
According to the application, the shire’s complaints officer initiated this action on behalf of the shire.
Who is the shire’s complaints officer, I hear you ask?
Why, that would be the shire CEO.
Yep that’s right, the CEO told himself to initiate the shire action against me.
Why is the shire trying to kick me off the council?
Well, that is not exactly clear in his application.
The shire first tried (unsuccessfully) to get the WA Local Government Department to suspend me from the council.
Because that didn’t work, it now appears it is trying to get SAT to do it.
You can only laugh at the irony of the Shire of Toodyay asking the WA Local Government Department to suspend me from the council.
After all, this is the very same State Government department that is currently conducting a formal inquiry into our shire’s own actions and behaviour.
Unfortunately, this sort of internal politicking risks distracting the council from its primary purpose, namely to ensure that your voice is being heard on the council and that your rate money is spent in the most appropriate manner.
On the matter of your rates for a second, you should be aware that because the application to SAT against me was initiated by the Shire of Toodyay, the CEO is able to use the shire’s bank account to fully fund legal fees and all other shire-related costs related to this matter.
This means that even more of your hard-earned rates will find its way into the pockets of the shire’s Perth lawyers.
Maybe this helps explain why the shire plans to hit you this year with one of the highest rate increases in Western Australia.
And as an aside, I as a councillor – unlike the shire – pay for all my own legal fees out of my own pocket.
Also, I believe this may be the first time that a CEO of any local government authority has ever applied to SAT to have an elected member disqualified from public office.
Clearly, this appears to be attempt to stifle open communication between individual councillors and the community by seeking to punish those that try to encourage public debate on community-related matters such as rates and how the shire spends your money (see Cr Michael Southwell letter).
It should be remembered that our system of local government is designed to give the community the power to choose who represents them on a council.
Councils are then tasked with the responsibility of employing a CEO to implement and administer day-to-day shire activities as determined by the council.
When a local government authority starts taking steps to determine who sits on a council, as our current shire has just started trying to do, then the Toodyay community really loses its voice.