Tri­bunal nixes coun­cil war of words

Albany Advertiser - - NEWS - Saskia Adysti

A for­mer Shire of Den­mark coun­cil­lor will no longer have to make a pub­lic apol­ogy for com­ments she made on so­cial me­dia.

For­mer coun­cil­lor Yas­min Bartlett was or­dered by the Lo­cal Govern­ment Stan­dards Panel in Oc­to­ber to apol­o­gise to for­mer Shire chief ex­ec­u­tive Dale Ste­wart and coun­cil­lors dur­ing an or­di­nary coun­cil meet­ing over com­ments on Face­book about Mr Ste­wart and as­pects of his work.

Ms Bartlett did not make the apol­ogy, prompt­ing the Shire to re- fer the mat­ter to the State Ad­min­is­tra­tive Tri­bunal.

Last Mon­day, the SAT dis­missed the mat­ter, find­ing there was no need for Ms Bartlett to make the apol­ogy given she was no longer a coun­cil­lor and was not likely to run for coun­cil again.

“Within that 28-day pe­riod after 3 Oc­to­ber, 2017 (when the panel pub­lished its or­der), Ms Bartlett re­signed from be­ing a coun­cil mem­ber and did not con­test the lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions held on 21 Oc­to­ber, 2017,” a mem­ber of the SAT said.

“Un­der the terms of the panel's or­ders, Ms Bartlett was not obliged to make the apol­ogy within the 28day pe­riod.”

The tri­bunal note its de­ci­sion re­lated solely to the al­leged non­com­pli­ance with the panel’s or­ders and not the orig­i­nal mi­nor breach found by the panel.

“The de­ci­sion of the tri­bunal in these pro­ceed­ings should not be in­ter­preted as an en­dorse­ment of the be­hav­iour of Ms Bartlett,” a mem­ber of the SAT said.

“If Ms Bartlett was still a coun­cil mem­ber, the tri­bunal would have con­sid­ered im­pos­ing a sus­pended or­der of a pe­riod of dis­qual­i­fica- tion.” In an email to the tri­bunal on March 23, Ms Bartlett de­fended her post to say she was only shar­ing mat­ters of pub­lic in­ter­est.

“I will not apol­o­gise for telling the truth and be­ing a dili­gent coun­cil­lor en­sur­ing the Shire of Den­mark be­came fully com­pli­ant,” she said.

Ms Bartlett said the or­deal started after four “friv­o­lous” com­plaints made against her by for­mer and cur­rent Den­mark coun­cil­lors.

“Those com­plaints had a tremen­dous im­pact on my busi­ness, per­sonal life and men­tal well­be­ing and I find their pre­pared­ness to at­tack an in­di­vid­ual coun­cil­lor is quite ab­hor­rent, dis­heart­en­ing, but more than any­thing, ter­ri­bly sad and dis­ap­point­ing,” she said.

Shire of Den­mark chief ex­ec­u­tive Bill Parker said the SAT had made its de­ci­sion and the Shire would like to put the mat­ter to rest.

“Other than pro­vid­ing the tri­bunal with the re­fer­ral ma­te­rial, the Shire made no fur­ther sub­mis­sions in re­la­tion to the al­leged non­com­pli­ance or sug­gested any ap­pro­pri­ate penalty to the tri­bunal,” he said. “The Shire of Den­mark is look­ing for­ward to putting this mat­ter be­hind us.”

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