CITY of Perth’s elected officials have been officially suspended by Local Government Minister David Templeman.
Mr Templeman made the announcement this afternoon outside Government House after meeting with Governor Kerry Sanderson to receive a gazettal of a Governor’s Order.
He made reference to the “ongoing serious concerns of failure by the elected council to ensure that the local government performs its functions properly” in announcing the suspension.
“Under provision 8.19 I have immediately suspended the City of Perth and appointed three commissioners,” Mr Templeman said.
“I will also be initiating in due course a panel inquiry to investigate ongoing operations at the City of Perth.”
Mr Templeman said ‘a line needed to be drawn in the sand’, which prompted him to announce on Wednesday his intention to suspend the council.
“The situation at City of Perth has become untenable and I have formed the view that if I do not intervene, I am failing in my responsibilities as minister and not fulfulling my obligations under the Local Government Act,” he said.
The three commissioners will now fulfil the role of council and include “very experienced” retiring WA Planning Commission boss Eric Lumsden as chair, former Perth Education City executive director Gaye McMath as vice chair and outgoing City of Rockingham chief executive Andrew Hammond.
The inquiry panel would have the powers of a Royal Commission, Mr Templeman said, and would act separately to the commissioners.
“The commissioners effectively act as the council from this point forward – they will be making decisions,” he said.
“The inquiry panel will ultimately make recommendations and provide me with a report. They may include, to the extreme, dismissal. It’s not my role to preempt that.
“I think the elected members will be reflecting now.” he said.
Mr Templeman acknowledged his decision would “have ramifications” for the councillors and he “deeply respects” the work of local governments across WA.
The most recent local government inquiry was into City of Canning in 2014; the subsequent inquiry into it took just short of two years and cost more than $1.5 million dollars.
“Establishing and addressing issues of morale will be a task for (the) commissioners,” Mr Templeman said.
“I think we’ve got three very experienced commissioners who understand they need to stabilise the City, and that includes restoring confidence.
“We want to turn this around as quickly as possible.”
Mr Templeman said any payment councillors would be eligible for would be a matter for the commissioners.
There were also reports a councillor had removed items from Council House today, which Mr Templeman refused to be drawn on.
“Any matters with regards to interference of documents will be investigated by the department,” he said.
“I don’t want to fetter an authorised inquiry. What I’ve done is draw a line in the sand. I’m not making a running commentary on everyone who’s been doing whatever.
“What has occurred over a period of time has affected the good governance of Perth.”
Opposition Local Government Spokesman Tony Krsticevic said the situation at the City had been “dragging” on for too long and called on the Lord Mayor and councillors to resign.
“It’s unfortunate the City of Perth had to enact its crisis management plan before the minister would act,” he said.
“This situation has been dragging on for too long now – it’s frozen the City of Perth.
“Our reputation is suffering not just in Australia but internationally.
“It’s unfortunate the councillors weren’t able to do their job as required.
“I think all of the councillors and Lord Mayor should resign.”
Mr Kriticevic also called on the inquiry to make its findings public.