Wait now on for Perth Lord Mayor’s verdict after tribunal hearing ends

Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi. Picture: Giovanni Torre
Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi. Picture: Giovanni Torre

PERTH Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi is now waiting for the decision of the State Administrative Tribunal after closing statements were finalised today, the second day of her hearing.

The Tribunal is considering Ms Scaffidi’s 45 alleged breaches of the Local Government Act.

The Lord Mayor has already admitted to three of the alleged breaches, including undisclosed paid travel from BHP-Billiton and Hawaiian Investments.

During the hearing Justice Jeremy Curthoys read from an email in which the Lord Mayor requested that the 4-star accommodation offered by organisers of an event be upgraded to 5-star, with the comment, “I don’t live in trash”.

State Solicitor’s Office lawyer Carolyn Thatcher said there could be “no question” that gifts of accommodation conferred a financial benefit.

Justice Curthoy said, “ultimately what is at the heart of the legislation is the avoidance of corruption”.

Ms Thatcher argued that undisclosed gifts “could give a third party leverage or the perception of leverage” in decision making and the point of the relevant section of the Act is that “if the contribution to travel is not from government then it must be declared”.

“We struggle to see how the purchase of airline tickets is not a contribution to travel; it is not credible to suggest the Lord Mayor believed the local government was paying,” Ms Thatcher said.

“(The Lord Mayor) said she didn’t know about third party contributions, in context of emails in which she requested negotiations of contributions.”

Ms Scaffidi’s lawyer Steven Penglis argued that if one Annual Return is non-compliant – even if a number of matters were undisclosed – it constituted a single offence.

Mr Penglis said paid accommodation did not meet the definition of “financial benefit”, focussing on what he called the “natural and ordinary” definition of financial benefit, adding that if an organisation was obliged to pay for accommodation, citing the example of the Press Council, that it did not constitute a financial benefit.

It was at this point Justice Curthoys read from the email in which the Lord Mayor requested a 5-star rather than 4-star hotel, and asked Mr Penglis if this was reasonable and not a financial benefit.

The Lord Mayor’s lawyer said she was entitled to accommodation of a standard appropriate for a Lord Mayor of Perth.

Mr Penglis argued Ms Scaffidi receiving paid accommodation in order to execute her duties was not a gift.

Justice Curthoys asked, “if you cut a ribbon, is that adequate consideration for accommodation?”, prompting Mr Penglis to warn against “minimalising the cutting of a ribbon”.

Mr Penglis argued that third parties paying the City of Perth to cover costs for the Lord Mayor was not a financial benefit to Ms Scaffidi.

“It would be very odd if the Lord Mayor had to declare third party contributions to travel if City sought reimbursement after paying for the travel,” he said.

Ms Thatcher and her colleagues from the State Solicitor’s Office concluded by emphasising reimbursement from third parties paid via a local government was still a gift to the Lord Mayor.

After the hearing, Ms Scaffidi said she would not comment until the process was completed.

“There is still a long way to go,” she said, referring to the wait for the decision and the subsequent penalty hearing.