City of Melville quashes calls for investigation into Applecross property purchases

Melville Council voted against asking the State Government to investigate land purchases in Applecross, as requested by ratepayers.
Melville Council voted against asking the State Government to investigate land purchases in Applecross, as requested by ratepayers.

MELVILLE Council has gone against the wishes of ratepayers after quashing their hopes of an investigation into the City’s purchase of property in Applecross.

But the council said residents will get what they asked for, with the purchases already coming under the scope of a State-backed inquiry.

Residents used a special electors meeting (SEM) at the tail end of April to call on the City to request the Local Government Minister look into the circumstances surrounding buys on Moreau Mews and Kishorn Road.

They asked for specific focus on whether staff and elected members who voted on the related items in early 2016 had acted in accordance with legislation.

But in a report to councillors Tuesday night, governance and compliance adviser Jeff Clark recommended the electors motion be noted, arguing its scope was similar to matters already being considered under the ongoing Authorised Inquiry.

Acting chief executive Marten Tieleman re-confirmed that point, saying the inquiry involved a review of the City’s acquisition of land.

Mr Clark’s recommendation, which formed part of a motion considering other ratepayer wishes from the SEM, was eventually carried 7 – 5 after about 40 minutes of debate.

Councillor Katy Mair put the ratepayer request back on the table, submitting a “reject and replace” motion.

“This matter is a serious one and residents have raised it as a matter of great concern by highlighting it at the SEM,” she said.

“Since the CEO has sent the text of all motions passed at the (SEM) to the … Department of Local Government, by passing this motion tonight we will be supporting (the) endeavour to clear the reputation of the council.”

She found support from councillor Nicholas Pazolli who said residents wanted to ensure their concerns are investigated.

“I’ve always believed … that when electors have gone to the effort and time to produce a SEM request and to fill out the form and then to turn out in such numbers on the night, it is our responsibility to seriously consider their request,” he said.

Councillor Nicole Robins said she was “not against further investigation into this issue” but disagreed it should be open to public submissions, arguing assessments of councillors should be left to the “professionals familiar with the legislation”.

Applecross resident Clive Ross, who instigated the special electors meeting in April, previously argued councillors who considered the property purchases two years ago would not be able to consider the new motion when it was put to council because of a “self interest”.

Melville Mayor Russell Aubrey said the City had referred to the Local Government Act.

“The City’s legal advice is that these claims … are misconceived and baseless,” Mr Aubrey said, adding that all claims had been submitted to the Department of Local Government.

All councillors in question made disclosures of an impartiality interest prior to discussion on Tuesday night, allowing them to vote on the item.