EXCLUSIVE: City of Rockingham councillor Matt Whitfield vindicated

Councillor Matt Whitfield said complaints made against him to the Local Government Standard's Panel were a
Councillor Matt Whitfield said complaints made against him to the Local Government Standard's Panel were a "monumental waste of money."

CITY of Rockingham councillor Matt Whitfield feels vindicated after he was cleared of most charges made against him to the Local Government Standard’s Panel.

The panel found six complaints were made against Cr Whitfield and only one was considered a breach. Cr Whitfield will appeal that decision to the State Administrative Tribunal.

Cr Whitfield said he was “absolutely elated” with the panel’s findings.

He said the complaints were a “monumental waste of time and money.”

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Cr Whitfield claims there was a potential cost of $70,000, “when you factor in the amount of time the highly paid officers have put into this”.

He said since the complaints there had been a “cloud” over his head and he resigned from a lot of committees.

“At the beginning I wanted to leave, but if I quit I could not clear my name,” he said.

“I felt a lot of anguish and upheaval because the complaints kept coming.”

The panel report said there was a “history of lodging complaints for matters that could and should be dealt with in a different manner”.

In relation to one of the complaints, presiding panel member Sheryl Siekierka said Cr Whitfield articulated he felt the complainant was victimising and harassing him for historic reasons.

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“On the basis of the materials provided, the panel is satisfied that the majority of disagreements and complaints between the parties could have been dealt with internally and that the complaint was lodged for vexatious reasons and not as a genuine complaint,” she said.

City of Rockingham chief executive Michael Parker (who was not the complainant) said the City of Rockingham accepted the panel’s decisions.

“The acting CEO at the time made referrals to the Standards Panel that were considered to be soundly based and in accordance with his responsibilities as acting CEO in dealing with various concerns,” Mr Parker said.

“These referrals were made without reference to the Mayor or councillors.”

Rockingham Mayor Barry Sammels said he was unaware of the referrals being made at the time.

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“I completely refute the allegations of any victimisation or attempts to oust Cr Whitfield,” he said.

“The acting CEO at the time is an experienced and respected officer who did an outstanding job during a difficult period.”

Complaints made to the Local Government Standard’s Panel:

1. Social media post about someone putting a propaganda flyer in councillors pigeon holes – no breach
2. Social media post about rates – no breach
3. Social media post expressing disappointment that a sporting complex was going to be delivered later than hoped – no breach
4. Email asking acting chief executive (at the time) for clarification about the complaints – no breach
5. In an email writing acting chief executive in capital letters considered a threat – no breach
6. In an email Councillor asked if he could observe a meeting between the city and a sporting club – no breach
7. In an email the Councillor raised concerns around the process for appointing the acting chief executive – no breach
8. Councillor met with developers to suggest they consider building enclosed dog parks in their estates – found to be in breach.
9. In a social media post Councillor advertised a structure plan to allow people to know about making a formal submission – no breach
10. In a social media post the Councillor stated that the previous chief executive had left to become a commissioner at the City of Perth – no breach
11. A social media post about the chief exective’s key focus areas – no breach
12. A social media post about the process of chief executives’ key focus areas – no breach
13. A social media post by Councillor about all of the previous charges – no breach

ROCKINGHAM NEWS