THE Central Eastern Business Association has finally got its $15,000 from Bayswater council to hold an awards night.
The CEBA awards are a shot in the arm for local businesses but Bayswater council’s been unable to vote on the grant because too many councillors have accepted tickets to previous awards and have been told they’ve got a conflict of interest.
Meanwhile councillor Dan Bull’s business is a part of CEBA (he withdrew in time for this vote), while Chris Cornish, and Catherine Ehrhardt are members of CEBA and declared an impartiality interest.
They didn’t want to vote, but the department of local government knocked back a request to give councillors who’d attended dinners an exemption to vote and firmly told the trio they had no option.
Cr Cornish said the ruling from the department was that if he vacated the council chamber he’d be acting “contrary to the spirit of the act”.
“I do not want to be here,” Cr Cornish told Tuesday’s meeting.
”I do not think it passes the pub test. I don’t think the councillors who have had to leave this chamber for accepting two tickets … [are] conflicted.
“Councillors should be given the right to declare an impartiality interest and leave the room,” he later told the Voice, adding the sector should be doing all it could to reduce the perception of conflicts of interest.
Cr Bull, a lawyer by trade, says “it’s ripe for mistakes to be inadvertently made by councillors across the state under this regime”.
“As a consequence I don’t blame councillors for erring on the side of caution in determining if they should be in the room or outside of the room.
“My personal view is issues such as the one seen with CEBA are potentially going to occur more frequently throughout the sector while councillors grapple with what their statutory obligations are.”
by DAVID BELL