Bassendean councillors reject proposal for popularly elected mayor

Bassendean councillors reject proposal for popularly elected mayor

TOWN of Bassendean councillors rejected a recommendation for a popularly elected mayor at the next election but remain supportive of Mayor John Gangell.

Councillors voted to increase the number of councillors to seven and rejected changing the method of electing the mayor at last week’s council meeting.

Councillors Gangell and Gerry Pule were the only councillors who voted in favour of a popularly elected mayor.

Results from a public survey indicated 66.67 per cent of 104 eligible respondents voted in favour of a popularly elected mayor.

Cr Catherine Ehrhardt said she was “disappointed” with the councillors’ decision given the response.

“That is the whole point of being on council, you are supposed to listen to ratepayers and make the best decisions for your ratepayers,” she said.

“You cannot go against almost 70 per cent; that is just unbelievable.

“The only reason I see is that they think of any potential aspirations to have the seat to themselves.”

Cr Gangell said he supported the public’s view to change the voting method.

“I think there was about 65-68 per cent of the community (who) wanted to have an opportunity to vote for a mayor,” he said.

“What I found surprising was that none of the other councillors, who did not support the results from the public, none of them spoke so I cannot talk about their reasoning.”

Cr Pule said he favoured the current method but chose to support the mayor.

“I have been deputy mayor for two terms and my position as deputy mayor was to always support the mayor and give him my 100 per cent backing,” he said.

Current deputy mayor Mike Lewis said he voted against the recommendation because the council could become “very fractious”.

“The reason why there was not a lot said was because (we) did not want to denigrate the position of the mayor,” he said.

“We live in a small town where we have only just over 10,000 voters and it would be relatively easy to buy the position of mayor.

“If you have a mayor that is separately elected, there may not be alignment with the rest of the council.”

Cr Paul Bridges and Cr Bob Brown said councillors were not trying to “knock off” Cr Gangell.

“There is a view that John (Gangell) is a ‘one man band’ but whilst he is representing the views of council; that is fine,” Cr Bridges said.

“If he gets out of line then we have the option move a vote of no confidence and no one is planning to do that… that is a theoretical position.”

Cr Brown said he was concerned with the small number of respondents who could potentially manipulate the votes.

Cr Renee McLennan said in a Facebook post on June 29 that having an odd number of councillors “would ensure more democratic decision-making for the community”.