A STIRLING resident is calling for a “developer contact register” after some councillors did not disclose meetings with the representative of a potential buyer for one of the city’s properties.
Although the councillors have said the land sale wasn’t discussed during the meetings, meaning they didn’t have to disclosure any interest, former council candidate Jack Garber used question time at this week’s council meeting to ask for a governance review into the independence of council members, conflicts of interest and behind-closed-doors meetings.
Mr Garber said his call also related to the processes behind some Scarborough developments.
Stirling sold the narrow strip of public land on Walcott Street to the owner of an adjoining block – home to Fat Dragon restaurant – after the sale was approved at a closed-door council meeting on August 21.
The Italian-based buyer had engaged family friend, freeman of the city and former mayor Tony Vallelonga, to be their Perth envoy.
Prior to the sale Mr Vallelonga shouted current mayor Mark Irwin to a $50 lunch at the WA Italian Club and sat with councillors Bianca Sandri and Suzanne Migdale at a council-funded lunch two months later but also told the Voice he didn’t discuss the issue on either occasion.
“Never, never, never,” Mr Vallelonga said emphatically.
“I would never do that. I wouldn’t put them in that position.”
The lunch with the mayor was declared on Stirling’s gift register.
At the August 21 meeting, several councillors declared impartiality interests on the basis they’d spoken to Mount Lawley Society members and nearby owners about the sale.
Acting Stirling CEO Michael Littleton told the Voice as the mayor and Mr Vallelonga hadn’t discussed the sale, there was no need for a declaration.
“It was mayor Irwin’s first visit to the Italian Club in his capacity as mayor,” Mr Littleton said.
“While there he met members of the club, including freeman of the city Tony Vallelonga and discussed council’s future priorities and the mayor’s vision for the city while in the role.”
Mr Garber says his idea for a review was “was summarily rejected by the mayor”.
He’s planning to run for council again in 2019 after coming up just short last year.
Nearby councils like Vincent and Bayswater have publicly-viewable “developer contact registers”, where elected members record whenever they have contact with a developer.
Vincent council’s policy on the register says “contact with developers is a normal and necessary function of the role of a council member”. It also exempts councillors from disclosing meetings with developers where projects before the council aren’t discussed.
When the strip of land was advertised in April, Stirling’s stated the market rate was $1818 per sqm, but it was sold for $1600 per sqm.
The city’s since revised that initial market rate and said a professional valuer rated it lower.
Councillors were split over the decision to sell: In favour were councillors David Boothman, Karen Caddy, Andrew Guilfoyle, Irwin, Migdale, Karlo Perkov, Stephanie Proud, Sandri and Keith Sargent. Opposed were Crs Elizabeth Re, Joe Ferrante, Adam Spagnolo and David Lagan.
by DAVID BELL