VINCENT council CEO Len Kosovo stopped a community group from running the city’s biannual plant sale because he thought one of its members—former councillor Dudley Maier—was too negative about the city.
In a February 3 email to staff about the plant sale, Mr Kosova said; “I absolutely will not tolerate participation in our events by persons demonstrating those negative attitudes and behaviours”.
The Claise Brook Catchment Group was allowed to have a stall at a sustainability pop-up beside the plant sale, but were excluded from their usual organisational role for the April 7 event.
The group came up with the idea for a native plant sale 14 years ago and has since helped organise and run the event.
Mr Maier and his partner Sally Lake have also judged the local history awards for years, but have been told that their services will not be required in 2018.
Mr Kosova says the review of how they do their judging is “unrelated” and “is not personal to Mr Maier or Ms Lake”.
After he found out they wouldn’t be helping to run the sale this year, Mr Maier submitted a freedom of information request to the city.
An internal email from Mr Kosova to staff stated: “I would like to better understand the nature of Claise Brook Catchment Group’s involvement in this and all CoV events.
“I expressed my disappointment to Jeremy and Craig last year that on numerous occasions in the past a member(s) of the Catchment Group has/have spent their time at these events openly criticising the City and undermining our work to other community members. I absolutely will not tolerate participation in our events by persons demonstrating those negative attitudes and behaviours.
“I’d be disappointed if my clear message on this from last year wasn’t adhered to.
“I look forward to learning more about exactly what is proposed so that I can decide if and how it needs to change.”
Mr Maier is often critical of the city’s operations, routinely attending council meetings to raise his concerns, but he doesn’t feel he’s been “negative”.
“I have been critical of the way the city is being run, but I have not been negative, and I’ve done it in the open, at council meetings, not at community events,” he says.
“This seems like a clumsy attempt to silence legitimate criticism by a member of the community. It could be seen as a form of intimidation or bullying. An active and vocal community is fundamental to a healthy democracy.
“It is totally unacceptable and illogical to punish a community group because of the personal views of one of their members. This sends the wrong signal to other community groups like P&Cs and town teams.
“I know he was unhappy when I tried to stick up for staff members and suggested an independent staff survey to see if there was a morale problem. The sort of survey that has recently identified cultural problems at the City of Perth.
“Irrespective of the fact that the CEO has resigned, I hope the council will take some action against the CEO to make it clear that this sort of behaviour is totally unacceptable and will not be tolerated in future.”
Mr Kosova responds: “In recent years, I have received unsolicited feedback from attendees of the city’s native plant sale that a member(s) of the Claise Brook Catchment Group have been criticising the city and undermining our work to other community members in attendance, despite those person(s) participating in the event on behalf of the Catchment Group and as a volunteer for the city.
“Members of our community are entitled to air their opinions about the city but should, out of common decency and respect, refrain from doing so when they are actively participating in and partnering with the city to deliver a community event.
This behaviour can also adversely reflect on the community group that the person is representing because their negative views can be perceived as the views of the group, thus tarnishing the group and distracting from its core functions and focus. This is the message that was previously provided to staff.”
by DAVID BELL