A DEBATE over security measures for a Guildford home has fully exposed the rift in the City of Swan council, with a councillor censured and the Mayor abruptly calling an end to the meeting.
Councillors were debating the installation of six security poles at 136 Swan Street in Guildford, an application that had been unanimously rejected in May.
The applicant subsequently entered into State Administrative Tribunal mediation with the City, with SAT asking the City to reconsider an amended application.
While the officer’s recommendation was to approve the development, an alternative motion to approve the security poles with stringent conditions from councillor Ian Johnson was defeated 8-7, with Mayor Kevin Bailey using his casting vote to finalise the decision.
Councillor Andrew Kiely then moved a motion to refuse the application, a motion that was defeated 8-6.
Councillor Cate McCullough then moved the officer’s recommendation, which led to an extraordinary outburst from Cr Kiely that saw him censured by the Mayor and exposed the rift.
Over objections from the Mayor, Cr Kiely launched a bomb at councillors.
“Here we are, you lot, as councillors,” he said.
“You lot, I refer to the group of councillors who are constantly voting against issues, constantly voting against things in Guildford for the mere sake of voting against things in Guildford, this is an inappropriate development and you know it Mayor.”
This led to the Mayor censuring him, ordering him to turn off his microphone and not speak for the remainder of the meeting.
This did not deter Cr Kiely from continuing.
“For a heritage listed area Mayor, for a heritage listed area you’re going to allow this sort of development to go on in Guildford, it’s appalling.”
Over the objections of Cr Johnson, who said he did not have the power to do so, Mayor Bailey then immediately closed the meeting.
City of Swan chief executive Mike Foley said that under current standing orders, the Mayor as Presiding Member has the power to adjourn the meeting without the requirement for a vote, but added that a report was being put to council in October for council to resume pre-COVID meeting schedules and standing orders.
Cr Kiely’s claim that there are a group of councillors constantly voting against “things” in Guildford bears consideration.
It is common knowledge that there is a 6/9 split on council.
Echo News examined the minutes of every ordinary council meeting since the last Local Government, in October 2019 elections, and found only 43 motions that could be argued to have been decided by a bloc of councillors – 45 if you include the elections of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, which were decided on a 6/9 split.
Of those 45 decisions, 18 related directly to Guildford but those 18 decisions were spread across seven items, with the St Jude’s Aged Care development accounting for six of the decisions.
All up, 23 items specifically mentioning Guildford were debated in that almost 12 month period.
It would appear the rift in council has also drawn the attention of Local Government Minister David Templeman.
A spokesman for Local Government Minister David Templeman said the Minister is aware of issues at the City of Swan and is periodically updated.
“Officers from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries have been working with the City of Swan administration and council to provide support and guidance on matters concerning governance,” the spokesman said.
“The Minister is aware of the Council trying to be proactive in these matters.
“Whether intervention takes place at the City of Swan is dependent on the circumstances and the authority under the LG Act and a matter for the Minister to consider, after taking appropriate advice from the Director General of the Department and other relevant sources.”
Mr Foley said elected members must apply the principles of natural justice and without bias or conflict of interest, make decisions in a judicial manner based on the law and the relevant local government’s policies as they exist; and the facts and merits of the case.
Elected members must not make up their minds about a matter before Council until they have read the officer’s report and heard all of the meeting debate.
For his part, Cr Kiely defended his comments but added for the most part, Council makes good decisions.
At Wednesday night’s continuation, the officer’s recommendation was defeated 5/7.
With the council essentially failing to make a new decision on the item, it will now automatically return to SAT, and the City will incur the costs associated with that action.