THE State Administrative Tribunal says lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi “learnt very little from her experience” and “continues to be careless in preparing documents”, when it handed down her 18-month disqualification from council on Monday.
The lengthy ban was for 45 breaches of the Local Government Act, stemming from her failure to declare travel contributions and gifts.
The disqualification was due to come into effect midnight September 7, but Ms Scaffidi has applied to have it postponed until her pending Supreme Court appeal against some of the breaches is heard.
However local government minister David Templeman said “I expect the stay will be unsuccessful”, and has called for her to step aside.
WA premier Mark McGowan said Ms Scaffidi was “embarrassing” herself by clinging on to office, and opposition leader Mike Nahan agreed it was time for her to go.
If Ms Scaffidi is disqualified this week, we’re unlikely to get a mayoral election tacked on to October’s ordinary election.
That would leave deputy mayor James Limnios as the city’s acting lord mayor until an extraordinary vote for a new mayor could be held.
The SAT’s 77-page finding was particularly damning of evidence Ms Scaffidi gave to the tribunal, taking aim at inaccuracies in her statements and in documents she’d prepared for the hearing.
The SAT decision reads: “Given that Ms Scaffidi’s breaches of s 5.78 of the LG Act were the result of carelessness, one might have expected that Ms Scaffidi would demonstrate meticulous care in preparing for and giving evidence in the penalty hearing.
“It was an opportunity for her to demonstrate to the Tribunal that she had learnt from her past mistakes by ensuring that her evidence was totally accurate
“The need for Ms Scaffidi’s evidence to be totally accurate was reinforced by the fact that her evidence was given under oath.
“Unfortunately, Ms Scaffidi’s evidence at the penalty hearing goes towards demonstrating that she has learnt very little from her experience and that she continues to be careless in preparing important documents, even those that are to stand as evidence before the Tribunal.”
The Tribunal noted “Ms Scaffidi complained that she had been the subject of extensive inaccurate media coverage and submitted that this should reduce any penalty she faced”.
Ms Scaffidi issued a written statement in response to the decision, noting the Tribunal declared “this is not a case of intentional wrongdoing,” and emphasising “there was no allegation that any financial benefit arose to me as a consequence of me not including each ‘gift’ and ‘contribution to travel’” in her annual returns.
She said no one, including the City of Perth, suffered any financial detriment, and “there was no finding of me acting recklessly”.
“I will continue to fight for what I consider to be a fair and just outcome in this matter, both for myself and for those who elected me. In particular, I will not give in to those who wrongly seek to make this a political issue.”
Cr Reece Harley, who came within a few hundred votes of unseating Ms Scaffidi as lord mayor at the last council election, was still mulling over his options this week but says he’s “interested” in the role and would most likely stand again. He described the last two years as a “slow moving trainwreck” which had tarnished the city’s reputation and made it “so difficult or the city to do its job”.
He said that Ms Scaffidi knew the CCC report was hanging over her head before the last election and shouldn’t have nominated.
At the time of going to print we hadn’t heard if deputy Cr Limnios would run for lord mayor, but Michael Sutherland, a former Mt Lawley MP and deputy lord mayor, has said he is eyeing up the mayoral chains.
by DAVID BELL