Cloud of suspicion hangs over Canning council

Cloud of suspicion hangs over Canning council

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Canning Mayor Patrick Hall apologised to council on March 15.

City of Canning mayor Patrick Hall believes a cloud of suspicion hovers over council after the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) found no evidence of serious misconduct in the City’s Chief Executive selection process.

At a council meeting on October 20, 2020, councillors voted to inform then-chief executive Arthur Kyron that his contract would not be renewed, and officially began the search for a new chief executive on December 8.

The process fell apart in May 2021, when information available only to the CEO selection panel was leaked to a candidate, leading to Mayor Patrick Hall referring the city to both the Corruption and Crime Commission and the department of Local Government on allegations of serious misconduct.

The selection panel was made up of every single sitting member of council, and one independent advisor.

Stephen Cain, an applicant for the position of CEO, was subsequently appointed as interim chief executive on a six-month, $340,000 contract that expires on December 31.

Both the CCC and DLG have concluded their investigations, with the CCC granting permission to Mr Hall to read the letter containing their decision to council on November 16.

On the basis of the information provided to the CCC, and their further inquiries, they were “unable to form a reasonable suspicion of serious misconduct” and confirmed they would take no further action.

At the council meeting, Mr Hall said the failure of the CCC to reach a decision left a cloud of suspicion over the entire council.

“I’m patently unhappy with the outcome from the CCC,” he said.

“As was relayed to me by a number of councillors, we come away from what we believed was going to be a thorough investigation with a cloud of suspicion sitting over most of us, including myself.

“I feel patently awkward about continuing with the CEO recruitment process but I think proceed we must.”

Curtin University local government scholar Andy Asquith believes the CCC’s failure may be an issue of semantics.

“I think this is an issue of semantics, isn’t it, it depends how you define serious,” he said.

“Certainly on the face of it, it would look as being some form of misconduct, or at the very least, people or a person hasn’t performed with the expectations we would want from someone in public life.”

However Mr Hall said he was still of the view the misconduct was serious.

“Given the facts known at the time, I was of the view – and am still of the view, that the alleged conduct constituted ‘serious misconduct’ as it involved a public officer (an Elected Member of local government) ‘corruptly taking advantage of their position to obtain a benefit for himself or herself or for another person,” he said.

“Whilst I am disappointed that this matter has not be resolved by the CCC – and I know that our community is equally disappointed, this episode has demonstrated that we are a local government which acts with integrity and has drawn a line in the sand on misconduct.”

Council voted to recommence the CEO selection process, appointing councillors Singh, Jacobs and Spencer-Teo to the new selection panel that also includes the mayor and deputy mayor.