Debate over declarations of interest
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a councillor is about to consider an issue connected to an organisation with which they are connected, and they are withdrawn from debate.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.