Govt orders WA council to sort out governance issues

The City of Melville in WA has been ordered to pull its socks up and sort out governance issues or face further action.

Melville CEO Marten Tieleman

The City on Wednesday confirmed it had received a letter from the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries which raised concerns about “ongoing issues with governance practices”.

In a letter dated February 28 and seen by Government News the department raises a number of concerns including:

  • lack of formalised process for dealing with behavioural complaints
  • inappropriate questioning of staff by council members during council meetings and at other times
  • inappropriate councillor conduct toward other council members and administration staff
  • involvement of councillors in operational matters
  • inappropriate interactions between councillors and administration staff
  • increasing costs for legal advice and legal services

The letter, addressed to Melville’s CEO Marten Tieleman, says the government remains concerned that the issues are “leading to further dysfunction and council decision making that will likely not be in the best interests of the City’s community”.

DLGSC has ordered  the City to respond to its  letter by April 28 with a plan for improving governance, including managing behaviour complaints, ensuring respectful and professional interactions, and making sure there’s clarity about the distinction between the roles of the Council, council members, the CEO and administration staff.

It also says Council must release in full a recent report on building and planning complaints at the City of Melville, as well as the City’s progress in implementing the recommendations.

Executive Director Local Government Mustafa Yildiz says without action there is a potential for the situation at Melville to escalate.

“It would be an unacceptable situation for the City and Council to determine otherwise and would result in the DLGSC considering all necessary actions to prevent further Council dysfunction,” he writes in the letter.

Council to work collaboratively with department

Council says it received the letter after a meeting on January 31, which was called by the department as an “early intervention” measure and attended by Mr Tieleman and key governance staff.

The City has pledged to work collaboratively with the department and respond to its letter by the deadline. 

“The City and Council are currently working to better understand the department’s concerns and have requested the department provide a briefing to support this process,” Mayor George Gear said.

“The City and Council will work collaboratively with the Department, responding to and acting openly in dealing with the governance concerns raised.”

The Council and administration remained focused on delivering services and outcomes that benefit our residents, ratepayers and local businesses, he said.

“Our successes can be demonstrated through the many outcomes achieved this year and last, as highlighted in our Community Annual Report.”

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