Port Hedland councillors to seek more legal advice

Alexander ScottNorth West Telegraph
The Port Hedland council poses for a picture in one of their first meetings. Not present is councillor Peter Carter.
Camera IconThe Port Hedland council poses for a picture in one of their first meetings. Not present is councillor Peter Carter.

The nine Town of Port Hedland councillors facing suspension after being issued a show-cause notice by the State Government voted to seek more legal advice at a special meeting last week.

The council has decided to get further external legal advice to confirm the legalities of the process the Department of Local Government has taken in issuing the notice, as well as advice regarding its response.

The decision went against the Town officer’s recommendation the process the department had followed was correct and that he write to request the information that led to the issuing of the notice.

A Town officer report stated this motion passed would cost between $15,000 and $20,000, given the scope of issues and factual investigation that would be required by the external lawyers.

The document stated external lawyers had told the ToPH that if a detailed response of this nature was prepared, it was unlikely to address all concerns or issues.

Mayor Camilo Blanco said there was significant evidence to support the lack of compliance with the legislated process.

“The Department of Local Government has interfered significantly with local decision- making,” he said.

“(It has) potentially created a catastrophic risk to the town’s finance and also management.

“The potential shutdown of all services is real.” Mr Blanco said the Government should allow the election to proceed in October, and enforce the new legislation and remove individual council members who breached their statutory obligations.

“People across Australia want better government,” he said.

Mr Blanco was worried about the ability of Local Government Minister David Templeman to remove the Town’s legal requirement to rate industry groups, which generated $20 million in extra revenue for the Town, should the council be suspended.

“If the department removes the right to charge, no one will know until the council is reinstated — that potentially will be in two years,” he said. The council has until Friday to respond to the show-cause notice.

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