The City of Canning council is to be suspended and a full-scale inquiry launched into widespread governance issues, Local Government Minister John Casrtilli has announced.
In the first inquiry of its kind since a $1 million probe into the City of Joondalup in 2004, Mr Castrilli said the action was taken after report findings last week that pointed to serious and long-term failure by elected members to ensure the city performed its functions properly.
“Having carefully considered the report and its recommendations, I have formed the view that during this process it would be inappropriate for the council to continue to act as the governing body of the City of Canning,” Mr Castrilli said.
An eight-month probe into the council, tabled in Parliament last week, recommended the council’s suspension and a panel inquiry after finding “serious and continuous” failings by the council and individual elected members.
Painting a damning picture of dysfunction, the report found many examples of poor decision-making and the adverse influence of a so-called “mayor’s group” in council.
The report highlighted mayor Joe Delle Donne’s interference in administrative matters, saying the “single most concerning event” was his unilateral decision to suspend chief executive Mark Dacombe without the knowledge or approval of the council.
Citing possible breaches of the Local Government Act, it also recommended further probes into the failure of Mr Delle Donne and deputy mayor Bruce Mason to disclose a “free lunch” with law firm Civic Legal before a council decision to appoint the firm.
“Council has seriously eroded its professional relationship with its administration to the extent that the inquiry considers that if the council were to remain in office the potential exists for further major problems to develop,” the report concluded.
Mr Castrilli said a commissioner would be appointed by the Governor to fulfil the role of the suspended council while the inquiry took place.
“The City of Canning ratepayers deserve good governance and I believe this action will be a further step towards achieving this,” Mr Castrilli said.
Responding to the news, Mr Delle Donne called for the process to be “transparent and accountable”.
“I have already called upon the Minister to ensure there will be a process of natural justice that will allow for all allegations to be answered in an open forum, rather than from behind closed doors,” he said.
“While I look forward to the opportunity to clear my name of the allegations that have been made and illustrate that I and council have provided good governance to the people of our city, I wish to express my thanks to council for their ongoing dedication and allegiance to the community.”
WA Local Government Association president Troy Pickard said before the announcement that an inquiry was expensive and time consuming, but would clarify the “depth and breadth” of problems at the council.
He said ratepayers should rightly feel disappointed by the conduct of the council.
“It’s quite extraordinary,” he said.
“There’s no evidence that this type of conduct is occurring anywhere else in the State.”