LORD mayor Lisa Scaffidi and longtime allies Janet Davidson and Judy McEvoy have been censured by a standards panel over an attack on deputy lord mayor James Limnios.
Cr Davidson had moved a motion of no confidence in Cr Limnios as a matter of urgent business in May last year, claiming he hadn’t gone to enough events in his capacity as deputy lord mayor. Mrs Scaffidi was chairing the ordinary council meeting and allowed the motion to be put despite having being warned twice by staff that it didn’t meet the criteria for urgency. The motion was seconded by Cr McEvoy.
The Local Government Standards Panel determined the trio should be publicly censured for the “improper use of … office to cause detriment to the deputy lord mayor.”
“The vote of no confidence was a ‘public rebuke’, capable of damaging the deputy lord mayor’s reputation or causing others to think less favourably of them,” the standards panel report said.
Five days before the meeting CEO Martin Mileham sent a memo to all councillors regarding media speculation about no confidence motions, saying they had “no binding effect or obligations placed upon the elected member”.
He urged councillors to put any such motions forward through the standard “general business” process.
But Cr Davidson sprung her motion on the night, which Cr Jemma Green described at the time as an “ambush”. He colleague Reece Harley called it “completely unacceptable,” and poked holes in some of the claims it contained. The pair and Cr Lily Chen voted against the motion.
The panel says the warnings from Mr Mileham and the manager of governance “reinforce the proposition that the lord mayor knew she was acting outside the standing orders”.
The trio’s extensive experience in local government also counted against them, as they should have known better.
Cr Limnios, who’d claimed at the time the motion was “payback” for speaking out against the embattled lord mayor, said this week he felt vindicated by the panel’s findings.
“This was an attempt to discredit me. And I feel that my name is now cleared and for those people who know me, they truly understand how hard I work in my role as deputy lord mayor for the City of Perth.”
Mrs Scaffidi emailed the Voice a statement on behalf of all three councillors: “We accept the ruling on this minor matter and the censure in regards to how standing orders were applied, but we do not resile from the views as were expressed and voted on (by five) at the time. The role of the deputy lord mayor is intended to be one of full support and representation to the lord mayor in his/her absence and the delegation records tell the fuller story.”
The panel noted that when it advised the three councillors of the finding against them, none “apologised to the deputy lord mayor or the panel”. In fact, they reiterated their criticism of the deputy lord mayor.
That ensured that they wouldn’t get away with a public apology, as the panel felt it would “not be sincere”. Instead they deserved public censure, with notices placed in the Perth Voice and West Australian newspaper.
Mrs Scaffidi complained during the process that panel member Paul Kelly, a Claremont councillor, had in the past “made disparaging comments about me” and could demonstrate bias, but the panel said he’d not spoken about the minor breach complaint before them and dismissed her concerns.
by DAVID BELL