PERTH lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi lobbied to be put up in five-star accommodation by the hosts of an event because she didn’t want to “stay in trash”.
Mrs Scaffidi’s top-shelf dossing habits were aired at this week’s State Administrative Tribunal hearing into her failure to declare gifts and free travel, including a $35,000 trip to the Beijing Olympics which was “camouflaged” from council colleagues.
When called as a witness the lord mayor claimed she spent her early years in office assuming the council was picking up the tab for her travel so she didn’t have anything to declare.
“Were you aware that third parties funded trips?” local department lawyer Carolyn Thatcher asked Mrs Scaffidi.
“No,” the lord mayor said resolutely.
But Ms Thatcher then produced two emails from Mrs Scaffidi to her personal assistant which made it clear she was aware of the arrangements for at least two trips.
“Get very clear details on the flight booking, and make sure they are going to pay,” Ms Scaffidi wrote in one email, while the other asked for the hosts to be made aware of her distaste for staying in “trash”.
Another email from Kagoshima University clearly spelt out that the uni was paying for the trip.
Ms Thatcher asked whether Ms Scaffidi’s failure to declare the trips on her annual return “was because you put your head in the sand?”
“It didn’t occur to me to worry about money coming into the city,” the lord mayor responded.
“Clearly I wasn’t appreciative of that money being used to offset my travel.
“I feel very sad, knowing what I know now,” Mrs Scaffidi said, adding the omissions now made her “feel ill and very remorseful”.
Mrs Scaffidi has acknowledged failure to declare five trips, but is contesting 40 other allegations, with her lawyer Steven Penglis arguing they were part of her official duties and shouldn’t be considered as gifts.
Her time wasn’t free, he argued, and covering her travel and accommodation was fair in return for her speeches and attendance at dignitary functions.
Mr Penglis said if the hosts hadn’t picked up the bill, the council would have so there was no benefit to Mrs Scaffidi and the travel shouldn’t have been considered a gift.
“The lord mayor is required to travel, that’s a fundamental part of her job,” he argued.
SAT president Jeremy Curthoys queried whether cutting a ribbon was a fair return for a paid flight and accommodation, and said any request from Mrs Scaffidi to be upgraded to five-star accommodation would have resulted in a financial benefit.
Mr Penglis said cutting ribbons was under-rated and an “important ceremonial event”, while only the cost difference between standard accommodation and an upgrade should be considered a “gift”.
Former CEO Frank Edwards backed Mrs Scaffidi’s take on trips for official functions, saying “it would not have entered my mind that it is a gift to an individual member”.
After the two-day hearing the three members of SAT panel retired to consider their decision.
by DAVID BELL