Department will not investigate Cockburn Deputy Mayor’s text messages to council candidate

Stock image.
Stock image.

THE Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC) will not launch an investigation into text messages from City of Cockburn Deputy Mayor Lee-Anne Smith to East Ward candidate Tony Toledo asking him to pull out as a candidate of next month’s extraordinary election.

Mr Toledo is one of four candidates to nominate for the vacant position in the City’s East Ward following the sudden death of long-standing councillor Steve Portelli on Australia Day.

Mr Toledo received messages from Ms Smith asking him to withdraw his nomination as it would only help a fellow candidate gain the seat.

He said he looked to Ms Smith for advice and guidance and that she had offered to help him “wade through the technicalities of a council election”.“She introduced me to resident groups, then as I built up momentum in my campaign, things turned very quickly,” he said.

“I feel betrayed, shocked, sad and extremely disappointed that she would try to sabotage my campaign after knowing how passionate and dedicated I am on my candidacy and getting into council to make a change.”

Ms Smith, who stood by the messages arguing she had done nothing wrong, said it was standard practice at all levels of government in the lead up to any election.

“In the last Cockburn local election it became clear the practice of endorsing candidates and asking elected members to withdraw in order not to split votes was increasingly evident,” Ms Smith said.

“This is the first year out of my 10 on council I have approached anyone and I feel this has been totally blown out of proportion.”

A DLGSC spokeswoman said the department had been made aware of the incident.

“It is unfortunate when elected members fail to follow acceptable standards of civility when using social or other media,” the spokeswoman said.

“Local government elected members make a declaration of office, declaring that they will observe the Local Government (Rules of Conduct) Regulations 2007, which include the general principle that council members will ‘treat others with respect and fairness’.

“While the Local Government Act 1995 does not give the Minister the legislative authority to intervene, an alleged breach of any of the Local Government (Rules of Conduct) Regulations 2007 should be reported as a minor breach and information is available online.”

City of Cockburn Governance and Community Services director Don Green said while it was not appropriate to offer any further comment, the City had received advice from the WA Electoral Commission that it did not believe there had been a breach of the Local Government Act or Regulations.

“Therefore, any complaints received will need to be assessed as potential breaches of the Local Government Act Rules of Conduct and processed through that course,” Mr Green said.

“The City is aware of one complaint received from a member of the public.

“They have been provided with a minor breach complaint form if they wish to lodge an allegation for non-compliance with the Local Government Act Rules of Conduct.”

A WA Electoral Commission (WAEC) spokeswoman said it would not make public comment on matters involving individual candidates, for any election.

Voting packages for the East Ward extraordinary election are expected to arrive in mail boxes this month.

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