Board clears Pazolli

16. 09NEWSTHE local government standards panel has slapped down Melville mayor Russell Aubrey for trying to muzzle one of his councillors.

The panel found councillor Nick Pazolli “has not committed a breach” of the rules of conduct.

Last January Mr Aubrey lodged a complaint when Cr Pazolli featured in a Herald article in which he questioned whether the council was gouging ratepayers by understating its real surplus.

Improper use

The mayor claimed the councillor had breached a rule requiring him not to make “improper use of the person’s office…to cause detriment to the local government or any other person”.

But the panel concluded there was “no direct evidence” Cr Pazolli had given the paper the documents containing his “total effective surplus” theory.

Cr Pazolli had also argued the use of the phrase “unnecessary gouging” was the Herald’s “own colourful language” explaining his position, rather than a direct quote.

But the Panel did find that the councillor’s own stonewalling when Mr Aubrey quizzed him over the article “might well be seen as regrettable, unhelpful and damaging to the council’s collegiate working relationship”.

Cr Pazolli has since told the Herald he’s “very happy with the finding.

“It is always stressful and it certainly made things tense on council for me,” he said, adding he’d have no problems continuing to work with the mayor.

And he’s unrepentant, saying he’ll continue to calculate the total effective surplus and provide it to his colleagues on council.

“I would hope that in the next budget procedure—rather than going for a comfortable budget position—given the past four years has had quite significant surpluses or reserves, councillors might feel comfortable considering an option that is much lower than a five per cent [rate] increase, that provides some relief to the ratepayer.”

The Herald asked to speak to Mr Aubrey but he did not respond before deadline.

by DAVID BELL

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