City of Kalamunda councillor blames alleged Local Govt Act breach on bad advice

Andrew Waddell lost his seat and role as Kalamunda mayor.
Picture: Bruce Hunt www.communitypix.com.au d473170
Andrew Waddell lost his seat and role as Kalamunda mayor. Picture: Bruce Hunt www.communitypix.com.au d473170

A COUNCILLOR is calling on the City of Kalamunda to accept responsibility for its role in an alleged breach of the Local Government Act under review by the Department of Local Government.

The Department is investigating a complaint that Mayor Andrew Waddell and councillors Dylan O’Connor, Allan Morton and Tracy Destree failed to disclose financial interests when voting on Amendment 82 to allow higher-density housing in parts of Forrestfield, Kalamunda, High Wycombe and Maida Vale.

Cr Destree said the case was now a matter of public interest and limited facts had been made publically available.

“I do not speak on behalf of the City, but in defence of my own actions as a councillor,” she said.

“The protracted assessment by the Department is being used as a political football, and through the whole process the City’s CEO remains largely silent. I am disappointed the City has not stood up and declared its own responsibilities and actions in this matter.

“It appears there has been a significant error, but that error is inadequate advice the City provided to all councillors at the meeting on June 27, 2016, not the actions of councillors named.”

Cr Destree said when the item first came before council on October 26, 2015, she owned a property within the affected area and declared a financial interest and left the council chambers while the item was being discussed.

“I left the room because, at the time, I considered it was the cautious and prudent thing to do, and was consistent with the advice provided by Darrel Forrest, manager governance and PR, on behalf of the City,” she said,

Cr Destree said when Amendment 82 came before the council again in 2016 the circumstances were significantly different.

“Ten days before that meeting chief executive Rhonda Hardy provided advice received from the City’s governance manager regarding the financial interests of councillors who had land within the affected area,” she said.

“That advice was confirmed in writing and circulated in the week before the council meeting. The advice was that councillors who own land or land adjacent to land to be rezoned under the proposal have a financial interest; however, given the number of residents/ratepayers affected by the proposal, it is considered the interest would be one ‘in common’.

“Council was then advised councillors with property in the affected area should declared a direct financial interest in common and could then remain in the council chambers and participate in the discussion and the vote.”

Cr Destree said she was satisfied with the advice because it came from senior City staff.

“I also believed the advice was based on the Department’s own interpretation of the Local Government Act and the Department is responsible for its administration,” she said.

“At no time did the CEO or governance manager state the advice was an extract of the Department’s Handbook and not from the Local Government Act”