PERTH city council CEO Martin Mileham went on indefinite personal leave this week after discovering he’d been the subject of a secret internal investigation.
Nicknamed Project Percy, the probe found Mr Mileham had “no case to answer,” but lord mayor Lisa Scaffidi says the fallout has caused the CEO enormous anxiety which has led to him taking time off for his health.
Mr Mileham has written to the council alleging the secrecy made the investigation a breach of the terms of his contract.
The probe was carried out while Jemma Green was acting lord mayor. Cr Green released a statement this week saying it was sparked after she received “information from a reputable property dealer as to the conduct of certain people within the City of Perth including the City of Perth, CEO, Mr Martin Mileham”.
Cr Green says she was conscious the allegations had the potential to damage reputations, so tried to deal with the issue with “the utmost care and discretion”. She sought the advice of the city’s head of governance, Mark Ridgewell, and law firm Herbert Smith Freehills was retained to provide advice on whether she was obliged to report the allegations.
But the Voice has been told by a source close to council that while a couple of thousand dollars was approved for the advice, this ballooned into a $25,000 investigation.
Ms Scaffidi says the council has now asked its own legal advisors to investigate how the money was spent and she’s expecting to release more information when it comes in.
“This is clearly extremely concerning … this was a non-council endorsed investigation that was allowed to occur,” she told a press conference on Monday.
Cr Green says after receiving Herbert Smith Freehills’ advice that there weren’t grounds to suspect Mr Mileham of even minor misconduct, she did not pursue the matter further.
She says the CEO was given a copy of the legal advice on February 6.
“I regret that the matter has become public,” she says, blaming a leak from a fellow councillor or staff member for the issue becoming public.
Local government minister David Templeman says the WA local government department will have to look into whether the city’s still functional.
by DAVID BELL