Council could be suspended
Concerns over governance, tendering procedures and the use of credit cards at the Shire of Exmouth have led to its council being issued a ‘show cause’ notice by the Local Government Minister.
The council has 21 days to respond to the notice, which asks the group to explain why it should not be suspended for up to six months and have to undergo training.
In issuing the notice today, Minister Paul Miles said recent Corruption and Crime Commission hearings, which investigated the Shire’s handling of a $1 million aquarium contract as part of the new Ningaloo Centre, had raised concerns.
He said the Department of Local Government and Communities had continued to monitor the Shire after the hearings, by liaising with its acting chief executive officer Keith Woodward.
A DLGC senior compliance officer has also been attending the Shire’s most recent council meetings.
“A significant number of issues emerged during this liaison, giving rise to concerns about the council's ability to effectively manage the operations of the Shire and to provide good government for the people in its community,” he said.
“I have formed the view there is sufficient evidence that it is inappropriate for the Shire of Exmouth's council to continue without intervention.”
The first-ever live-streamed Corruption and Crime Commission examinations were held in Exmouth last month, investigating claims of serious misconduct at the Shire.
The sessions, held in Perth questioned four senior officers including Shire chief executive Bill Price, who admitted he “misled” councillors when he recommended appointing a Perth-based company to build the $1 million Ningaloo Centre aquarium without putting it out to tender.
He also admitted to several instances of misusing his Shire credit card.
Mr Woodward, the Shire’s engineering services executive manager, was appointed acting chief executive while Mr Price took indefinite leave.
Mr Miles said he was committed to ensuring Exmouth community members could have confidence in their council and would decide what further action to take after receiving the Shire’s response to the notice.
One Shire councillor resigned on November 24, before the show cause notice was issued.
Exmouth is the second local government to be issued a show-cause notice in the past eight months after the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley was issued its first show notice in May.
At the time, then-local government minister Tony Simpson said alleged incidents of bullying, harassment, failure to declare interest and ongoing governance issues were “bringing the Shire into disrepute”.
A Perth-based mediator was appointed to resolve issues but terminated the process just six weeks in, saying it was
The council was issued a second show cause notice and on September 15 five councillors quit, before the remaining four were dissolved and a commissioner appointed until the October 2017 elections.
Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.
Sign up for our emails