After a lengthy inquiry that heard allegations of bullying, division and even criminal behaviour, the public will today get a comprehensive insight into what went wrong during a period of turmoil at the City of Perth.
WA’s Local Government Minister David Templeman will table in State Parliament Commissioner Tony Power’s long-awaited, 2,000-page report.
It is expected to include damning findings of unethical behaviour and misuse of entitlements that are said to have resulted in a poorly led and grossly dysfunctional local government.
What prompted the inquiry?
The mammoth inquiry was commissioned in April 2018 in a bid to restore confidence in the city’s ability to function properly, and followed the suspension of the council the previous month.
That suspension came after an expenses scandal involving Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi and a high turnover of senior staff.
The inquiry ran for more than two years and was slated to cost $4 million.
Mr Templeman has already indicated it could exceed that figure but said the state would consider legal avenues to recoup costs from the City of Perth.
Mr Power said he made “no apology for the time, care and attention which has gone into its investigations and hearings”.
“It was necessary,” he said.
Who gave evidence?
During public and private hearings that ran over 125 days, more than 100 witnesses were called to give evidence, including suspended councillors and the Lord Mayor.
City of Perth staff were also called before the inquiry, including sacked chief executive Martin Mileham.
During his closing address in June, Mr Power condemned the behaviour of some witnesses, describing the way they gave evidence as “reluctant” and at times “obstinate” and saying it had contributed to delays in the 26-month long investigation.
“It was disappointing that so many chose to be obstructive, for reasons best known to them,” he said.
What can we expect from the report?
When the inquiry concluded in June, Mr Power said he was confident it had identified the root causes of many of the problems at the City of Perth.
Mr Power also said the inquiry had referred more than 135 matters, many concerning suspected criminal behaviour, to the appropriate state and Commonwealth authorities.
Those matters relate to one organisation and 23 individuals, including councillors and senior members of the administration.
It is understood they will not be individually identified in his report.
Among the examples of misconduct examined by the inquiry were councillors interfering with local government election processes, thereby corrupting the democratic process.
Some were also found to have misused their titles and entitlements for personal benefit.
“The trappings and privileges of high office, in the form of dining, clothing and grooming allowances were exploited by some members of the council,” Mr Power said back in June.
“They did so for their own personal benefit, at the ratepayer’s expense and with little regard for the interests of community as a whole.”
Where are the councillors now?
Former councillors Keith Yong, Lily Chen, Judith McEvoy, Jim Adamos, Jemma Green, Reece Harley, James Limnios, Janet Davidson, Alexis Barton and Ms Scaffidi all gave evidence at the inquiry.
The entire City of Perth council was suspended by the State Government in April 2018 and three commissioners were appointed to run the city.
In October 2019, the term of the suspended Lord Mayor and four suspended councillors expired.
In January 2020, the Minister declared the remaining four council positions vacant.
Mr Power said since being taken over by the commissioners, a number of steps had been taken to address many of the failings identified in his report.
New local government elections are due to be held on October 17.
Channel 7 personality Basil Zempilas, former ABC journalist Di Bain, retired magistrate Tim Schwass, radio host Mark Gibson, businessman Brodie McCulloch and architect Sandy Anghie have all thrown their hats in the ring to be Perth’s next Lord Mayor.
The inquiry’s report will include recommendations to improve not just the City of Perth, but the operations of all local governments in WA.