Concerns after conflict rule scrapped

‘But we’re still on track for a mid to late-July announcement,’ chairman Mel Congerton said.

The five-member board is spending until Thursday considering public comment from late ideas for mergers, sent by Perth, Subiaco, Mosman Park and Kalamunda councils.

But some mayors have questioned the process after the State Government on June 9 scrapped the board’s conflict-of-interest rule that prevented Mr Congerton, a City of Swan councillor, fellow member Helen Dullard, the Shire of Mundaring president, and City of Melville chief executive Shayne Silcox, deciding on the future of neighbouring councils.

Dr Silcox is a former Nedlands chief executive, and Melville borders the City of Fremantle, which disputes Mosman Park’s claim to North Fremantle.

Nedlands Mayor Max Hipkins said while he recognised that merging seven western suburbs councils created many potential conflicts of interest, emphasis should be placed on current links between board members and councils, although he did believe the North Fremantle dispute was sufficient for Dr Silcox to stand aside from discussions.

Mr Congerton said Dr Silcox did not take part in any discussion about Melville even before the regulations were changed on June 9.

‘Bias or perceived bias is treated very seriously by the legal profession, and no judge or lawyer would accept that conflict of interest can be acceptably excluded within any decision-making body,’ Claremont Mayor Jock Barker said.

‘By just changing the regulations, after failing to get MPs’ support to alter the law, the Government has given board members relief from conflicts of interest after June 9, but what about decisions made before then?’ Mosman Park Mayor Ron Norris said.

Mr Congerton said the conflict-of-interest rule was removed so board members could look at the overall effect of all new borders across Perth.