Mayor’s debt burnout

The Sunday Times - - NEWS - JOSH ZIM­MER­MAN

THE freshly minted mayor of one of Perth’s big­gest coun­cils owes thou­sands of dol­lars to scores of ratepay­ers now foot­ing his six-fig­ure salary bill.

Stir­ling Mayor Mark Ir­win and wife, Elise, op­er­ated Selby Health and Fit­ness Gym for 21 years be­fore they were shut out of the Os­borne Park premises for missed rental pay­ments in Fe­bru­ary.

For­mer mem­bers are irate Mr Ir­win ac­tively ad­ver­tised and ac­cepted up-front pay­ments for dis­counted 12-month con­tracts in the days and weeks lead­ing up to its clo­sure.

City of Stir­ling res­i­dent Linda Jarvis said she paid $450 for a year-long mem­ber­ship in Jan­uary and that all her at­tempts to re­coup her money had gone unan­swered.

Ms Jarvis said she was shocked to dis­cover Mr Ir­win had been elected mayor by his fel­low coun­cil­lors af­ter last month’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions.

“As a busi­ness owner he has shown he can’t en­sure ev­ery­thing runs smoothly,” she said. “Now he is in an even big­ger po­si­tion as mayor, how are we sup­posed to be con­fi­dent he won’t run the City into the ground?”

De­spite hav­ing six months left on her con­tract, long-time mem­ber Jac­que­line Cross­ley de­cided to ex­tend when she saw the gym ad­ver­tis­ing 12month deals at half the price.

“At the time the gym went un­der I had 18 months of my mem­ber­ship left over but at this point I’ve re­signed my­self to the fact I’m not get­ting any of that money back,” she said. “It’s un­be­liev­able that the coun­cil saw fit to elect Mark as mayor given his track record and I’m spew­ing that my rates are go­ing to his salary.”

Fel­low for­mer mem­ber Ste­fan Quaid said he was dis­ap­pointed Mr Ir­win had not fronted him to ex­plain the sit­u­a­tion.

“Rather than go­ing around apol­o­gis­ing to peo­ple and telling them the gym was go­ing to have to shut its doors they were sell­ing mem­ber­ships right up to the day they were kicked out,” he said.

Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion spokesman Alan Hynd said the watch­dog had re­ceived 77 com­plaints about Selby Gym seek­ing more than $13,000 in re­funds.

“The com­plaints re­main un­re­solved and Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion is con­tin­u­ing its con­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts as well as con­duct­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said.

In an email to mem­bers five days af­ter the doors to the gym were shut — the last cor­re­spon­dence many of them have re­ceived — Mr Ir­win wrote he did not know “when or if Selby’s will reopen’’.

Mr Ir­win did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Out­rage: Mark Ir­win

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