Ex-WA councillor admits dining room misuse

A former Perth councillor has admitted spending thousands of dollars in ratepayers' money to host friends and family in the council dining room.

Keith Yong, 41, was the first person on Monday to face a public hearing at the inquiry into the City of Perth's governance following months of private sessions.

Councillors were permitted to spend up to $12,000 a year in the now closed dining room for council business and Mr Yong was among five people who abused it, the inquiry heard.

Mr Yong, who is a lawyer, admitted he had hosted about 60 people every year in the dining room for personal reasons.

He said he had been "unaware of any restriction" on who could be invited but conceded he "did not observe the policy properly".

Asked whether he believed ratepayers would regard his spending as good use of their money, Mr Yong replied: "No."

But he defended his use of an allowance of up to $13,360 for travel, clothes, seminars and further education, including partly paying for his diploma in local government.

Counsel assisting the commissioner Philip Urquhart said during his opening address elected member entitlements would be one of five areas of interest for the first block of public hearings.

There had been a huge discrepancy between councillors regarding the use of the allowances and the amounts claimed, he said.

Some claimed a fraction, while others took a very broad interpretation of their reimbursement of entitlements, such as clothing and dry cleaning to cover their attendance at council-related functions.

"At the very least it would fail the pub test by a considerable margin," he said.

Mr Urquhart also said some who had testified during the private hearings had "lacked veracity, defied logic and, on occasions, were an affront to common sense".

The inquiry was launched following a failure by Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi to disclose travel and gifts, reports of infighting between councillors, two CEOs taking stress leave and the suspension of the council in March 2018.