IN the words of former mayor June Barton it is “all out war” at Melville city council, with three councillors targeted by the majority for wanting more transparency and freedom to speak openly about council issues.
Cr Barton, a 25-year council veteran—made the comment to colleagues at Tuesday’s boisterous council meeting while objecting to the aggression meted out to her and Susanne Taylor-Rees and Nick Pazolli.
Cr Pazolli had moved three amendments to the council’s controversial draft code of conduct, all of which were voted down.
Things got ugly around the council table in front of two members of the public and the media after city ward Cr Duncan Macphail criticised the trio for not attending a workplace practices meeting in October.
“That meeting was held two days before the local government election,” Cr Barton said. “I attend most meetings.”
Cr Macphail continued, quoting from, “the front page of the Fremantle Herald, volume 24 number 41, Saturday, October 12, 2013”, as “evidence” supporting his allegation of misconduct against certain councillors. In that article, Cr Barton had called for councillors to have more freedom to speak openly to the press and constituents, and not be gagged.
“That sort of conduct is why we have and must have and I will say unfortunately we need to have a code of conduct,” Cr Macphail said.
Cr Barton objected: “If I had been charged with murder, I would have had a fairer trial, to be honest. I am very disappointed at the aggressiveness of tonight’s meeting.
“We should be debating … the code of conduct, instead of that it’s all-out war and it’s certainly not necessary.”
Mayor Russell Aubrey described Cr Barton’s objection as “unfair comment”. Cr Barton withdrew, saying she was offended by Cr Macphail’s veiled accusations.
The meeting ended with Cr Trish Phelan suggesting the trio attend another session on the new code with governance and legal officers: “There are only three people in this room who seem to have a problem with it,” she said. “They are the ones who need the session.”
At the start of the meeting Cr Phelan had said she was dismayed, having read Cr Pazolli’s reasons for suggesting changes, “that a fellow councillor could even imagine that council, representing the community, could be encouraged to make a decision that would subjugate the interests of ratepayers”.
“The idea that any council, past, present or future, would make decisions for itself or individuals … is totally delusional, and indeed is offensive to the people in this council,” she said.
“I am absolutely appalled we are even discussing this.”
Cr Pazolli asked Cr Phelan to withdraw the reference to “delusional”, but she did not because, “I was referring to an idea not a person and ideas haven’t actually complained tonight so I have nothing to apologise for”.
by CARMELO AMALFI