‘Wild bureaucratic overreach’: Geraldton council approves complaints committee despite opposition of mayor
A plan to create a committee to investigate behaviour complaints against council members has been opposed by the City’s mayor, who described the move as a “wild bureaucratic overreach”.
The proposal to alter council policy and set up the behaviour complaints committee was approved nine votes to three at Tuesday’s City of Greater Geraldton council meeting despite the protests of Mayor Shane Van Styn, who claimed it would put a great amount of power in a small set of hands.
Under the policy, a committee will be formed from council members to investigate complaints made against councillors.
Cr Michael Reymond voiced his support for the motion, which he said gave the serious matter of complaints the focus they deserved.
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“Complaints about members of council do affect our reputation and it is therefore very important that we have measures that work effectively to preserve the innocence of the person being complained against and the reputation of the City,” he said.
The reform is based on recommendations made by the WA Local Government Association in 2021.
Cr Natasha Colliver said the new system would be more effective at assessing complaints.
“It streamlines it and highlights people’s roles and responsibilities far more clearly,” she said.
Mr Van Styn implored other councillors to reject the plan, which he said “weaponises the complaints process” and would create a committee with far too much power.
“At the end of the day we are all elected officials and we have an obligation to each other and a reportability to each other, and nothing should be behind closed doors,” he said.
“This is wild bureaucratic overreach that is a deliberate attempt to create factionalism.”
The committee would have the power to issue fines worth $100,000, Mr Van Styn warned.
“It would be far beyond any committee we deal with here in Geraldton,” he said.
Mr Van Styn was the subject of a complaint last year over comments he made to media about the owners of the abandoned Batavia Motor Inne.
The owners complained over comments Mr Van Styn — who lives next door to the derelict site — made to the Guardian that they were “hiding in their offices in Perth and blaming other people for not taking care of this”. In an ABC article, the mayor was quoted as saying the owners “have blood on their hands:”.
An independent assessor investigated the complaint, found Mr Van Styn had breached the City’s code of conducted but recommended no action be taken. Deputy Mayor Jerry Clune moved a motion to put a behaviour plan in place, which was approved by the majority of council, but not enacted.
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