$10m question

MELVILLE Council was likely to be taken to task by residents on Thursday April 26 over allegations of serious breaches of local government legislation and a “severe lack of transparency.”

Swan Foreshore Protection Association member David Maynier told the Herald the group of frustrated ratepayers wanted a motion passed at the special electors’ meeting to ensure the purchase of a parcel of land in Applecross is investigated as part of the ongoing inquiry into Melville Council by the WA local government department.

According to the Local Government Act, before (a series of) land transactions over $10 million, a council needs to prepare a business case and invite and consider submissions from the public.

Melville entered into a series of transactions to acquire the neighbouring properties in Applecross from December 2015 to March 2017, which if considered collectively, total almost $12 million.

Mr Maynier said although the council purchased the properties separately, this created an appealing parcel of land for developers, and breached legislation by not preparing a business case or consulting the community.

• Melville council CEO Shayne Silcox. File photo

Investigate

Mr Maynier said he discovered, via freedom of information, that records show council intended to acquire all the property as a parcel, rather than individually, at a meeting in February 2016.

Mr Maynier also said records show the city purchased one of the adjoining properties on Kishorn Road in Applecross in March last year prior to receiving approval from council in April 2017—meaning the city could have lost its $100,000 deposit had council voted against the purchase.

“We seriously believe this is an area we want the inquiry to investigate,” Mr Maynier said.

As the Chook reported earlier in the month, the council announced it would not answer questions at the meeting called by 570 electors.

Melville CEO Shane Silcox said it would be inappropriate for city officers to answer questions relating to the property acquisition until the department hands down the outcome of their inquiry.

“Questions relating to procedural matters for the meeting will be answered,” Dr Silcox said.

At the special meeting, members of the SFPA and the Alfred Cove Action Group will also raise the reduced function space for cricket, rugby and bowling clubs following the implementation of the Bowls Strategy and Wave Park development.

The special electors’ meeting follows Melville’s introduction of stronger “safeguards” for staff to bring legal action against unruly ratepayers when they lessen the public’s confidence in  the council.

by CHARLIE SMITH

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