Stories by David Bell:
HAVING chaired during many rowdy meetings in her time, former Vincent mayor Alannah MacTiernan says councils need powers to ban people who are consistently disruptive and abusive.
The federal Perth Labor MP says criticism is welcome but councils need more authority to stop continual interjections and abusive remarks aimed at staff.
She says a restraining order-style system for repeat offenders may be necessary.
“I do think it gets to the point where the behaviour of particular individuals can totally interrupt the ability of the council to do its job,” she says.
“If you do get someone with a kangaroo loose in the top paddock you can totally disrupt the council’s ability to discharge their responsibilities.
“The ability to disrupt the procedures and prevent council from getting on and dealing with all of the city is quite profound, and I do think we need to have a look at what powers local government has.”
As mayor she challenged council critics Debbie Saunders and Stuart Lofthouse to run for council (they didn’t).
“I don’t think there was a thing we did that he didn’t oppose,” Ms MacTiernan recalls. “He and his friend have been so vitriolic at council.”
Ms Saunders says ratepayers don’t swear to abide by standing orders when entering the council building, and in any case it should be seen as the people’s property.
Mr Lofthouse’s enmity with council stretches back at least as far as the Nick Catania days, when the council produced visioning documents for the Leederville masterplan.
In the artist’s depiction of Oxford Street, Mr Lofthouse’s cafe, Greens and Co is bulldozed, replaced by an arcade.
Mr Lofthouse has also long opposed what he describes as favourable treatment the council offers to the Leederville Hotel. He and fellow cafe owner Debbie Saunders have frequently complained about patrons running amok at closing time and piddling in doorways.
Back in 2011 Mr Catania threatened to sic the rangers onto the pair after Mr Lofthouse used mildly salty language to describe inconsistencies in a council report.
In 2013 ex-CEO John Giorgi threatened to call the police on them for continually interrupting a meeting and labelling senior staff as liars.
Together they’ve opposed the bike plan, the name-and-shame list for street prostitution convictions, aspects of the Oxford Park upgrades, drinking fountains on the street, and the number of confidential items being heard behind closed doors without public scrutiny.
Ms Saunders says they just want transparency and answers from the council.
Mayor John Carey says the council has tried to work with the pair, and recently installed Ms Saunders on the Leederville Enhancement Committee.
“There’s no doubt that we’ve tried to be inclusive,” he says.
He says “to a certain level we tolerate it” when there’s been a bit of rowdiness, but two weeks ago saw repeated interjections and refusals to withdraw remarks and sit down.
Ms Saunders says she fully intends to attend the next council meeting, despite Mr Lofthouse’s physical ejection from the previous one.
Mr Carey says they have the right to attend, but interruptions will be cut short.
“If they denigrate staff, if they swear, then I will take the same action that I’ve taken before.”
To support his argument that abusive emails had been escalating in the lead-up to the meeting, then-acting CEO Mike Rootsey made available recent correspondence from Ms Saunders.
On July 16 she’d told council members the agenda was “a load of bullshit and lies”.
“You don’t listen to the residents, you do whatever the mayor says and he takes his orders from the Labor party.
“You should all be dismissed as councillors as you do not do the job you were elected to do.”
Mr Lofthouse sent an email the next day saying information in the report about the bike plan was “misleading and particularly bias in its reporting.
“Are you following directives from the mayor or are really that stupid.”
On the Vincent Facebook page (from which Ms Saunders has been banned, after posting comments under various noms de plume) she said, “Vincent is a corrupt council and Mayor Carey is covering up these investigations”. Her username “Babs Gc” has since been banned.
Formal police complaints
A FORMAL police complaint has been lodged by Vincent city council over a scuffle at a recent meeting.
Grainy CCTV footage of the incident, which occurred when rangers attempted to evict Stuart Lofthouse, has now been posted online by fellow trader Debbie Saunders.
The council had previously said “the matter escalated after Mr Lofthouse put one of our officers in a headlock and threw a number of punches”.
After the Voice asked then-acting CEO Rick Lotznicker to pinpoint where on the video this had happened, he said the matter was under investigation and the council was standing by its comments.
Mr Lofthouse and Ms Saunders have contacted police with plans to lodge their own complaint.