City of Bayswater reaffirms ‘freedom of speech’ for councillors

Stirling chief executive Stuart Jardine and Bayswater Mayor Barry McKenna.
Stirling chief executive Stuart Jardine and Bayswater Mayor Barry McKenna.

THE City of Bayswater Mayor has reaffirmed councillors’ “freedom of speech”, less than a week after Stirling councillors and staff were reprimanded for talking to the press.

In a memo leaked to Community Newspaper Group, Stirling chief executive Stuart Jardine last week reinforced rules that councillors and staff could not express their views to the media.

The memo was sent following details revealed by Community Newspaper Group of a Worksafe report into “bullying behaviours” carried out by Stirling Cr Elizabeth Re.

“Following recent media coverage regarding a number of matters at the City of Stirling, I would like to remind you of your responsibilities when dealing with the media,” he wrote.

“Only the mayor and (with the mayor’s agreement) the chief executive officer can speak on behalf of the City of the Council.”

He said if a councillor or employee was expressing his or her personal view, they had “a legal duty of fidelity to act in the best interest of the council and the City”.

“Any comments to the media that go against this direction may constitute a breach of regulation 7 of the Local Government Rules of Conduct Regulations 2007, a breach of the Local Government Act 1995 or constitute misconduct under the Corruption and Crime Commission Act,” he wrote.

At a Bayswater meeting this week, a member of the public queried the council’s media policy.

The man said Cr Dan Bull appeared prominently in the press and appeared to represent council.

However, Mayor Barry McKenna said councillors’ formed an independent board and the City allowed them freedom of speech.

“I’m not going to stop any councillor from talking to the press,” he said.

“Councillors need to know they are not in breach of the Local Government Act by speaking to the media.”

He also said councillors could not speak against a council resolution.

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