Council puts stop to fair work debate
COCKBURN Council has opted to not discuss a report into the Fair Work Commission hearing that involved their former chief executive, the mayor and two fellow councillors, not even behind closed doors.
An investigation into the hearing was tabled at Cockburn’s September council meeting, but the confidential report was unable to be discussed after a motion to move the meeting behind closed doors failed.
Former chief executive Stephen Cain’s anti-bullying application against Mayor Logan Howlett, councillors Lee-Anne Smith and Kevin Allen, and interim chief executive Stuart Downing was dismissed by the FWC in April.
Councillor Chontelle Stone formally suggested the report be discussed behind closed doors, which was seconded by councillor Michael Separovich.
However, when their motion failed to gain enough support, councillors promptly found themselves in the bizarre situation of
being unable to discuss the contents of the report either in front of the public, nor as a confidential item.
Mr Howlett told councillors because they voted to not go behind closed doors, the matter could not be discussed.
Councillors Stone and Separovich both expressed frustration they were unable to ask specific questions regarding the report in front of the public. Attempts to then defer discussion of the report to a follow-up meeting were unsuccessful.
A recommendation to simply receive the report was passed five votes to four, with councillors Stone, Separovich, Phoebe Corke and Chamonix Terblanche voting against.
When ruling on Mr Cain’s application, the FWC found while Cr Smith had “engaged in repeated unreasonable behaviour toward Mr Cain”, it was not satisfied Mr Cain had been bullied by Mayor Howlett, Cr Allen or Mr Downing.
The same night the application was dismissed, the City made the call to part ways with Mr Cain following a special council meeting, with the minutes from the meeting revealing the vote on a confidential recommendation was split 5-5 and the mayor’s casting vote proved decisive.
The City of Cockburn has spent more than $650,000 in legal fees with law firm Jackson McDonald since Mr Cain went on special paid leave amidst allegations of an unsafe workplace in November.
While it is unclear whether all the fees are related to the Cain matter, Jackson McDonald lawyers advised the City as it responded to the allegations and attended all six special council meetings that considered confidential staff matters in the wake of Mr Cain’s leave.