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Secret meetings threaten

FINDINGS against a Stirling City Councillor could have wider ramifications for WA local governments such as the Perth City Council.

A Department of Local Government inquiry found Councillor Eoin Martin used his position for personal gain and to mislead the owners of other properties.

The department’s inquiry centred on his conduct in relation to Lots 36 and 67 Gribble Road, Gwelup; Lot 78 Boulton Street, Dianella; Lot 2 Banksia Street, Joondana; and Lot 62 Wanborough Close, Gwelup.

Its report said potential breaches of other legislation might have occurred.

These concerned whether Mr Martin’s conduct in relation to matters affecting Lot 67 Gribble Road constituted a criminal offence or offences.

It also concerned whether the council’s CEO failed to report matters concerning alleged corrupt, criminal or serious improper conduct by Mr Martin to the appropriate authority.

The findings against Mr Martin and other matters have been referred to the appropriate agency to determine what action should be taken.

The department’s report contained 14 recommendations for changes in the council’s Code of Conduct and its operational procedures.

The recommended Code changes are designed to ensure councillors with a financial or other personal interest in an agenda item would not have access to staff dealing with the matter and would not discuss the matter with other councillors before a council meeting dealing with the item.

The Perth City Council’s “informal” briefing sessions could run foul of these recommendations.

Perth City Councillor Bert Tudori believes the PCC’s “secret” briefing meetings are illegal and should be banned.

“There are the most outrageous breaches of pecuniary interest in those meetings,” Mr Tudori said.

“The whole council meeting is thrashed out and decided in there.

“The public aren’t allowed into these meetings and no minutes are kept.

“I’ve sent many letters to the Minister for Local Government and the Department of Local Government complaining about these meetings and never received a reply.”

The department’s view is that “briefing” meetings should be for information purposes only. No decisions should be made there.

However, there seems to be little it can do to police such meetings.

Local Government Minister Paul Omodei said the department had asked the council to advise him of what action it proposed to take to give effect to the recommendations.

Mr Omodei said all Local Governments would do well to read this report in conjunction with the Cockburn City Council report published earlier this year to ensure their codes of conduct and administrative procedures adequately reflected their responsibilities in relation to matters of financial or personal interest.

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