MELVILLE city council has spent at least $10,000 on a private investigator to probe the affairs of three serving councillors often at odds with the mayor and his ruling faction.
The affair has been described by Cr Nick Pazolli—one of the trio in the spotlight—as “another example of continuing bullying and harassment that I have been subjected to whilst on council”.
Former police detective Brendan Peyton was paid $8745 for investigating issues around a recording made by Cr Pazolli during a heated meeting with Mayor Russell Aubrey, and $1650 probing the details of a lunch involving Crs June Barton and Susanne Taylor-Rees and a ratepayer (the anonymous allegation being the lunch had not been disclosed as a gift).
Cr Pazolli’s recording had come in useful during a court appearance: Mr Aubrey had sued for a violence restraining order against Cr Pazolli and testified to the court his version of events of the heated meeting to support his application. After Cr Pazolli’s tape was played to the court, Mr Aubrey’s application was thrown out. As for the lunch, it came well under the declarable limit.
Cr Pazolli refused to be interviewed by Mr Peyton: “I have absolutely no intention of wasting my time participating in and responding to inappropriate, superfluous and costly investigations, funded by the long-suffering ratepayer, when the magistrates court has already ruled completely in my favour on this matter,” he said.
No grounds for action
The Herald understands Mr Peyton advised the council there were no grounds for action over the lunch, and his advice regarding Cr Pazolli’s audio recording was inconclusive.
The Herald can’t say for sure if the payments are all that was spent on Mr Peyton’s services, nor whether other investigations are under way or planned.
Melville CEO Shayne Silcox is being vague about the council’s dealings with Mr Peyton and has refused to specify what’s been paid and specifically what for.
When the Herald asked why an investigation into Cr Pazolli was seen as necessary the frankly bewildering response via email was: “Independent review of the City’s Freedom of Information (FOI) process.”
As for Crs Taylor-Rees and Barton, Dr Silcox says, “any allegation received by the City from a resident is firstly assessed to decide the appropriate action to take. In this case the assessment was carried out by an independent consultant, with the outcome being there were no grounds to take any action. After receiving this advice the City informed the relevant persons”.
The Herald asked Dr Silcox whether any of the three councillors had been approached directly and asked questions face-to-face, or if legal advice had been sought from the WA local government department, before the council went to the expense of hiring a “consultant”.
Dr Silcox replied, “the city will always seek advice from other government agencies when thought necessary—in this case it was not necessary”.
by DAVID BELL