City of Melville councillor refused Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association membership

Melville Resident and Ratepayers Association president Gary Crawford and secretary Mark McLerie.
Melville Resident and Ratepayers Association president Gary Crawford and secretary Mark McLerie.

MELVILLE councillor Duncan Macphail has accused the Melville Residents and Ratepayers Association (MRRA) of breaching its own constitution by denying him membership to the group.

The MRRA went into hiatus in 2004 but was revived this year amid some residents’ concerns about the openness and transparency of the City of Melville’s administration.

Cr Macphail was a member of the MRRA in its previous iteration. He sought to renew his membership and deposited an application form into MRRA president Gary Crawford’s letterbox on July 27.

After receiving no response, Cr Macphail approached Mr Crawford before an ordinary council meeting on August 16 where he was told the MRRA committee had not yet met to discuss his application.

Cr Macphail then questioned MRRA secretary Mark McLerie about the status of his application before the Melville council’s September agenda briefing forum.

A few days later he received a handwritten letter from Mr Crawford claiming a clause in the MRRA’s constitution allowed the executive committee to refuse any membership application without explanation.

A copy of the MRRA constitution provided to the Melville Times by Cr Macphail contains no such explicit cause, but does state the Association “shall be managed and controlled by an executive committee”.

It also reads: “Membership of the Association is open to all residents and ratepayers eligible to vote in the municipality of the City of Melville.”

Attached to the letter, seemingly in support of the decision, was a copy of the Melville Bowling Club’s template letter for refusing applications.

“Please find attached the form of a letter from a typical community sporting association relating to refusal of application for membership,” Mr Crawford wrote.

“The (MRRA) has members who have suffered trauma as a result of the City’s failure to appropriately respond to their complaint/issue.

“These members have over the past few weeks made it very clear to me that they would resign from our community association if any existing councillor or person with a strong connection with an existing councillor were to be granted membership.”

In a subsequent email, Cr Macphail accused Mr Crawford of breaching both the MRRA’s constitution and the Associations Incorporation Act, which governs bodies such as the ratepayers group.

“This is not about intimidation against you but rather the good governance that you so obviously demand from everyone else,” he wrote.

“I won’t sit back to see you treat the incorporated MRRA as some personal fiefdom to advance personal agendas at the expense of its former good reputation and to devalue the currency and good standing of all the other incorporated associations around us.”

Asked for comment earlier this week, Mr Crawford said the MRRA had lodged a complaint against Cr Macphail with the WA Local Government Standards Panel.

“It would be inappropriate for the MRRA to make any comments to the press that may prejudice the external body’s investigation,” he said.

Former councillor Mark Reynolds, who represented the University Ward from 2001-2015, has also criticised the Association.

He said it had been deliberately obstructive in claiming it had not received his membership application.

Mr Reynolds emailed through membership applications on August 12 and 14 and sent a third by registered post.

He said Australia Post confirmed Mr Crawford refused the registered letter.

“I visited the post office and there was no indication of who the sender was on the package and I don’t accept mail without a sender’s address,” Mr Crawford said.

Multiple phone calls between Mr Reynolds and Mr Crawford yielded no result, with the MRRA president standing by his claim no application had been received.

Mr Reynolds believed the MRRA had obstructed his attempts to join the Association.

“Given the MRRA’s stated goal of openness and transparency, this evasiveness seems extremely hypocritical,” he said.

“Where is the democracy here? It is not a truly representative body if it does not accept all comers.

“If it was an all-encompassing, open and honest association they would accept all members until there was a good reason for them not to be members.

“I have lived in the City of Melville my whole life and have always been involved in community matters at all sorts of levels; from P&Cs to sports coaching to my time as deputy mayor.

“I have a passion for people and therefore want to be part of anything that is going to make a better City. I don’t think the MRRA is part of that equation.”