De­bate over dec­la­ra­tions of in­ter­est

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Quick News - By JON BAS­SETT

MOS­MAN Park coun­cil­lor Brett Pol­lock says the Town risks hav­ing coun­cil­lors ‘dis­con­nected from res­i­dents’ fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion pro­moted by Cr Zenda John­son into the im­pli­ca­tions of elected mem­bers’ links to arts, sports and com­mu­nity groups.

“While I un­der­stand what Cr John­son is aim­ing at, but you have to be care­ful as you may end up get­ting peo­ple who are not in­ter­ested in the com­mu­nity,’ Cr Pol­lock said at last week’s meet­ing.

One is­sue cited that could at­tract res­i­dents’ com­plaints would be if Cr Pol­lock – an un­paid chair­man of the Mos­man Park Men’s Shed and a mem­ber of the town’s Ro­tary, bowl­ing, ten­nis and golf clubs – should vote on coun­cil support and fund­ing for those groups in the past 18 months.

Cr Pol­lock said that un­less the coun­cil al­lowed its mem­bers to be part of clubs it risked hav­ing coun­cil­lors who were “dis­tant” from the or­gan­i­sa­tions that made the com­mu­nity work.

Cr John­son said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was the “right thing to do” after the pub­lic’s con­cerns.

She cited Vic­to­ria and NSW laws that in­clude the cri­te­ria of in­di­rect in­ter­est that must be de­clared when a coun­cil­lor is about to con­sider an is­sue con­nected to an or­gan­i­sa­tion with which they are con­nected, and they are with­drawn from de­bate.

“In NSW, the def­i­ni­tion is whether a fair minded, lay ob­server may bring to mind that a decision-maker may not bring a fair po­si­tion to their decision mak­ing,” Cr John­son said.

A re­port from chief ex­ec­u­tive Kevin Poyn­ton said Cr Pol­lock had de­clared im­par­tial­ity un­der coun­cil rules and WA law, when they voted on is­sues linked to their or­gan­i­sa­tions.

How­ever, res­i­dents’ con­cern about the links had not re­duced, de­spite it be­ing ex­plained to the com­plainants how coun­cil­lors were legally obliged to de­clare their in­ter­ests.

Coun­cil­lors ac­cepted Mr Poyn­ton’s pro­posal that the Depart­ment of Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment in­ves­ti­gate whether coun­cil­lors linked to a com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tion de­clare a “con­flict­ing duty” and not par­tic­i­pate in de­bate or vot­ing. “This con­cept has the ad­van­tage of a re­duc­tion in the rep­u­ta­tional risk to in­di­vid­ual elected mem­bers,” he said.

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