MELVILLE city council CEO Shayne Silcox has issued a decree to elected members of the council, ordering them to report to him all contact they have with members of the public.
Whether it’s a compliment about new trees or a critique of public art, he requires elected members to pass on any records of any conversations they have with the public.
Dr Silcox is basing his decree on what he says is a “statutory obligation of the local government act and the state records act”. However, the Herald understands no other WA council CEO has seen fit to issue a similar edict.
“The requirement that councillors forward all notes or records of discussions with members of the public was not open to interpretation either by a Herald reporter or the CEO,” council media minder Joanna Arbel said via email.
The Herald was forwarded a state records information sheet that says elected members must report anything to do with “complaints and compliments, correspondence concerning corporate matters, submissions petitions & lobbying [or] information for council’s interest relating to local government business activity and functions”.
Dr Silcox’s decree tightens the screws even further on elected members at Melville, who already operate under some of the most restrictive self-imposed conditions in WA.
In neighbouring Fremantle, “we let elected members use their common sense” says mayor Brad Pettitt. “If it’s something the operational guys need to know about, we expect to let them know.”
The only time councillors are required to declare contact with members of the public is when conflict-of-interest or potential bias is involved, for example if they’d had a chinwag with a developer while he’s applying to build a new project.
Cockburn council governance director Don Green says “as a general principle, any issue which is raised by a member of the public to an elected member which impacts the administration or operation of the city should be reported to the administration for both official record keeping purposes and to enable the matter to be addressed”.
When we told Dr Silcox we’d never heard of other councils following the rules in the same strict way he was demanding he said that was ”of deep concern… and the City requests evidence from the Herald to confirm which local governments are not acting in accordance with the local government act and the state records act”.
by DAVID BELL