Councillor rape threat

A FEMALE Cockburn councillor was threatened with rape last week as a small but angry group invaded a council meeting called to consider sanctions against deputy mayor Lee-Anne Smith.

Although Cr Smith narrowly survived the no-confidence motion, as the meeting drew to a close some of her supporters climbed over a rope between the public gallery and chamber, vowing revenge on her opponents.

The group threatened CEO Stephen Cain that his “day is coming”, while central ward councillor Phil Eva was accused of being a puppet master with “his hand up” colleague Chontelle Sands.

Cr Sands later told the Herald she heard other “disgusting” comments during the melee.

“I was very concerned I could not get out of the chamber without getting past these unruly and threatening people,” Cr Sands said.

When councillors later tried to leave the building and drive home, the security guard who was supposed to be manning the front door had disappeared and was later found out in the car park making a phone call.


Cr Sands says complaints about the security breach were lodged with the CEO and the council’s policies are now to be reviewed, while the security company is being replaced.

She criticised the running of the meeting, saying mayor Logan Howlett and Mr Cain should have ejected the unruly group earlier in the meeting when they became disruptive.

“They were warned a couple of times, but nothing was done,” Cr Sands said, noting she’d been shouted down several times while trying to speak.

“The safety of councillors is paramount.”

Cr Sands had been a particular target of the group because she initiated the special meeting by submitting a motion early in August calling for a vote of no-confidence in Cr Smith.

It was sparked by a Facebook post by Cr Smith in which she apologised to landowners affected by the widening of Jandakot Road for failing to get the council to delay the project at its July meeting.

Some landowners want more time to consider the potential for sub-division, which could lift the compensation they’d receive from the council for land taken for the road.

In her post, Cr Smith noted who’d supported her decision; and by inference those opposed.

Cr Sands took that as a criticism of a council decision, which is a breach of its code of conduct.

But at the meeting councillor Sands said that wasn’t the only issue with the deputy mayor’s behaviour, claiming she’d been rude to colleagues, staff and community members.

She called for Cr Smith to be stripped of her deputy mayoral allowance for six months and to be be suspended from all council standing committees and references groups, and external bodies where she represents Cockburn.

Initially her supporters thought they had the numbers, but Cr Michael Separovich says he changed his mind after council veteran Kevin Allen spoke against the motion.


Cr Allen, who described the proceedings as “grandstanding”, said the council’s standing committees were functioning well and the recommended punitive measures wouldn’t solve the council’s problems. He said the motion might also give the local government department the impression the council was becoming dysfunctional.

As a result of Cr Separovich’s switch, the vote was tied 5 – 5 and the motion lapsed for want of a majority.

Separately to the meeting, the Herald heard from another councillor that there had been an attempt to trial mediation, but Cr Smith wouldn’t participate because she has launched legal action against another councillor.

That was revealed to be Cr Lara Kirkwood at last week’s meeting, with one of Cr Smith’s supporters asking during question time whether she had a conflict of interest sitting in on the no-confidence motion.

Cr Smith is also believed to have launched legal action against former ally Tony Toledo and the Success Community Group over comments made during the last election when she suggested boycotting a meet-the-candidates forum organised by the group.

But aside from all that, what was driving Cr Smith’s supporters in the public gallery is her support for the Perth Freight Link. With the death of former councillor Steve Portelli, who was the local champion of the project, the group who’ve now rebranded themselves as the Fish Army say Cr Smith is the only representative on the council prepared to listen to their views.

But the army’s choice of Facebook profiles featuring fish armed with machine guns had some community members concerned about last week’s meeting, with several people apparently calling the council beforehand warning there could be trouble.

The Herald tried to contact Cr Smith, but the call went straight through to a message bank saying she was “away” and directing all queries to the council.


4 responses to “Councillor rape threat

  1. Are you sure this article is accurate? You can’t go around using the word ‘rape’ and blame Fish Army members or organisers. Viewing of cctv in council chambers will show if one of the organisers made such an outrageous threat. And if they did not, you need to print a full retraction and apology. If an individual made that threat, they need to be named and charged by police. This smear will stick and this article is being shared on the internet. Fish army only care about recreational fishing not rape or violence. I’m in the fish army, I don’t fish because I’m in an electric wheelchair but I care about our coastline and beaches, and I support not interfering with fish breeding.

  2. Really
    Rebranded Perth Frieght Link
    Fish Army are a group of conservation minded fisher people who’s aim is to protect sensitive fish breeding grounds
    Some of the members of this group were active participants in the snapper fisher bans during spawning, which now happens yearly

  3. Good morning,

    my name is Tim Barlow and I am the co-convener of the Fish Army. An anglers organisation that was defamed on your front page on Saturday Sept 1st.

    The article was totally false and misrepresented us as a Roe 8 group, and also associating us with so called “rape threats” which we find totally abhorrent and offensive.

    The Fish Army was formed to fight for Cockburn Sound against the proposed Outer Harbour, and is nothing to do with any pro-Roe 8 groups. In fact we are allied with the MUA, CFMEU, TWU and other organisations and community groups against the Outer Harbour. Any claims otherwise are false, and an attempt to discredit our successful campaign.

    Myself and the other co-convener have a long history of activism when it comes to fish stocks, the environment and anglers rights. In fact I was the lead speaker at the snapper rally in 2015 after the mass fish kills in Nov 2015.

    On the allegations of intimidation, rope climbing and rape threats it is obvious that the writer had not personally attended the Council meeting as it was all distorted, and from our point of view the only thing that you got right, was spelling Fish Army correctly. The rape comments were actually a direct quote from a councillors social media post, and were not made by any member of our Group. It was a very heated meeting and there were many other groups also present, but I can assure you, Fish Army was not the problem there.

    I also personally spoke at the Fremantle Community meeting at the Town Hall last Wednesday night, and have attached a copy of my speech for your perusal. I challenge you to find any mention of Roe 8 in there at all?

    As our group also includes many Lawyers, and even a couple of retired Magistrates, we have been offered pro-bono legal assistance if we wish to proceed with legal remedies. However I would personally prefer to concentrate our efforts of preventing the environmental destruction of the most critical spawning site for snapper in the whole West Coast Bioregion I would seek to keep this out of the Courts.

    To this end, I am offering you the chance to publish a retraction and apology to the Fish Army and our members ASAP, and also to publish in full, my speech from last Wednesday in order to prevent such costly and damaging actions.

    I am also available for further comment and/or an interview to present our side of the case?

    Tim Barlow

    Tim’s Tackle Plus

    Co-Convener Fish Army

    Member of the Anti-Outer Harbour Alliance

    PH 6161 0044

  4. First up i would like to say i am a friend of Cr Smith.
    I was at the above mentioned meeting.
    It was the most vile process i have ever witness.
    There were allegations against Ms Smith, that i certainly could not accertain what they were. There was numerous request for this to be established at the very beginning to no avail.
    It was a most undignified and degrading process which should be done away with.
    I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
    As for this news article, i am wondering why Mr Grant didnt mention the harrassment by Stephen Cain once Cr Smith had her chance to respond? Cr Smith made it perfectly clear that she felt she was being bullied.
    I also wonder how Cr Sands was privvy to emails dating back to 2013 to 2016 regarding Cr Smith alleged behaviours. Hasn’t she only been a Cr for 10 months??
    I am greatly saddened that Cr Sands was exposed to such behaviours/threats after the meeting. However, this had nothing to do with Cr Smith and i feel the headlines should have been “Cr Smith survives a vote of no confidence” this is what the meeting was about.
    The threats and allegations should have been reported to the police and another story altogether.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s