Town of Cambridge special council meeting gets testy as councillors and Mayor clash over internal investigation

Town of Cambridge Mayor Keri Shannon.
Town of Cambridge Mayor Keri Shannon.

“SYSTEMIC failures”, “clearly defamatory” statements and “disturbing” findings were some of the issues raised by Cambridge councillors and the mayor at a surprise special council meeting last night.

A motion to take the meeting behind closed doors was lost.

Floreat resident Jim Ashenden asked who or what had prompted the sudden meeting.

Mayor Keri Shannon said it was Crs Louis Carr, Jane Powell and Jo McAllister, and that notice had been “short for all of us”.

Cr McAllister said it was an urgent matter that needed to be addressed.

The councillor then moved a motion, seconded by Cr Powell, suspending the obtaining of legal advice and to censure the mayor.

The latter part of the motion was removed after Cr Andres Timmermanis and Ms Shannon suggested it was adverse reflection, as it suggested the mayor had been “acting ultra vires and advising council to act”.

Cr Timmermanis said there were many things in the background papers that concerned him.

“(They) contain a number of statements which are clearly defamatory,” he said.

There was some debate among councillors about when information had been received from legal firm Hall & Wilcox, who were hired to undertake an internal investigation at the Town.

“We’re being asked to make informed decisions, but it’s not clear that all councillors are receiving the same information at the same time,” Cr James Nelson said.

Ms Shannon said the final report was sent at 1.30pm that afternoon and the firm had completed their internal investigation.

Cr Rod Bradley said the report revealed a series of issues that had not been dealt with correctly by administration.

“Their findings are quite disturbing and justify the reasons why we had to have these investigations,” Cr Bradley said.

Cr Powell said there were issues around the use of a regulation by council that had allowed them to conduct the investigation and she was concerned Hall & Wilcox had not been engaged under the policies of the Town.

Ms Shannon said the Department of Local Government had given advice when drafting the motion and information had been provided to all councillors.

The Mayor sought multiple retractions on statements in the background documents and said allegations of matters being split down “ward lines” were tiresome.

“I find it quite offensive you (Cr McAllister) say everything is about ward lines and that I’m the Mayor of City Beach,” she said.

“I don’t understand why Wembley ward continue to vote against the investigations.

“I wonder when Wembley ward will accept there have been systemic failures.”

Cr McAllister said the “ward lines” comment was used for brevity in the background documents and she was not suggesting councillors vote in a particular manner.

“I take offense to accusations I’m somehow playing politics,” she said.

“I feel that the motion today was necessary even now that we have the report from Hall & Wilcox, it’s given the opportunity for councillors to ventilate.”

The final motion was lost.

Councillors then conducted a second special council meeting to appoint an acting chief executive, which was closed to the public.

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