BAYSWATER councillor John Rifici has been called out by a ratepayer group for not putting enough effort into his ward, a claim the councillor rejects.
Cr Rifici represents Maylands but the president of the local ratepayers’ association Elli Petersen-Pik has described him as a “close-to-absent” councillor because he’s on no council committees and has missed several special council meetings and workshops.
But Cr Rifici counters that he has an almost perfect attendance at ordinary council meetings, and had been on the planning and tech committee before they went on permanent hiatus in February.
“I was very disappointed to discover that of all councillors, one of our very own Maylands councillors (South Ward), John Rifici, would easily ‘win’ the award for ‘the councillor that attends the fewest committee meetings’,” Mr Petersen-Pik wrote to the 800 followers of his Improving Maylands Facebook group.
“Actually, he doesn’t attend any!”
According to Bayswater’s new “governance portal” Cr Rifici has missed both councillor workshops this year and only attended one of the five special council meetings listed on the register.
Mr Petersen-Pik says despite heading up the ratepayers association, he’d never met Cr Rifici nor seen him at any local events.
Cr Rifici lives in Fremantle but ran Rifo’s cafe in Maylands until its sale in 2014 and he still owns the building.
“True, it can be quite demanding to travel from Freo to Maylands on a weekly basis,” Mr Petersen-Pik writes, “but if he is not up to it, then he should quit. It’s important to remember that with a close-to-absent councillor, we all lose! There’s one less representative to advocate for our suburb on those committees.
“There are still 13 months until the next local government election. Is it too late for a wake-up call?”
Cr Rifici tells us he’s lived in Fremantle for 12 years “therefore the community that gave me such an overwhelming win three years ago were aware of this fact”.
It’s not his first stoush with the MRRA; in 2014 the organisation’s then-president Roger Tomlins wrote to Bayswater expressing “no confidence” in Cr Rifici.
“He never comes to our meetings, despite me asking him repeatedly, fails to respond to our emails on issues and is not on the ground enough,” Mr Tomlinson had written.
Maylands MLA Lisa Baker backed Mr Tomlinson at the time, saying she’d also tried to get Cr Rifici to attend MRRA meetings, but without success.
Maylands’ other ward councillor, Catherine Ehrhardt, sits on three committees full time and is a deputy for the East Metropolitan Regional Council, and has not been absent from any meeting since being elected in October 2015. She’s also sat in an observer on eight other meetings she wasn’t required to attend.
At the last WA local government association AGM, Cr Ehrhardt moved to mandate elected members attendance at committee and other meetings.
Cr Terry Kenyon spoke against her motion, but it was approved and WALGA will now investigate options how it could be implemented.
by DAVID BELL