PERTH city councillor Reece Harley has been cleared of breaching council rules for printing and distributing 3400 newsletters to residents 14 months ago.
There’s no hard rule on the use of copy machines and mailouts (and councillors occasionally use them to send out Christmas cards or Chinese New Year’s greetings), but then-CEO Gary Stevenson reckoned the newsletters overstepped the mark and he wanted Cr Harley to cough up $3300 to cover the bill.
Cr Harley refused, saying “it’s a fundamental role and responsibility of councillors to communicate with residents and electors of the city”.
“I was simply doing my job as a councillor.”
Mr Stevenson kicked it upstairs to the WA local government standards panel, which has finally determined he did nothing wrong.
The panel agreed with Cr Harley’s view that communicating with residents is part of a councillor’s role — hence he was entitled to use the resources — and found there was no prohibition of the practice at the city.
The panel also reckoned there was nothing to the claims Cr Harley’s newsletter had been a warm-up to his unsuccessful tilt for lord mayor some six months later, as there was no evidence he’d intended to run at the time.
While Cr Harley might’ve racked up a big mail bill on ratepayers’ dime, he and Cr Jemma Green are the only elected members at Perth who don’t claim ratepayer reimbursements for clothing, haircuts and the like.
Some of their colleagues’ yearly bills top $10,000.
The finding revealed the PCC’s rules are full of holes big enough to drive a truck through: anyone can now apparently go hog wild on a printer as long as it’s for communication with ratepayers.
Cr Harley favours the City of Melbourne’s rules, where councillors can’t claim clothing expenses but can claim for communications costs — with a limit.
by DAVID BELL