Election day is tantalisingly close for residents in the North Ward of the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale, but the question over who will foot the bill for the Shire’s legal fees remains unresolved.
Voters will decide who will occupy the two council seats in the North Ward on Saturday, October 22, from a pool of four candidates: Shaye Mack, Rob Coales, Courtney Mazzini and Kelly Berry.
The two seats were vacated on July 1 following a decision by the Court of Disputed Returns declaring the results of the 2021 election invalid.
The case revolved around concerns of election fraud spurred on by the arrest of two individuals with ties to former councillor Gary Singh – Ved Tewari and Amandeep Rosha – over the theft of ballots from residential mailboxes.
Mr Singh did not nominate to run in the fresh election.
Over the duration of the hearings, which are ongoing, the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale has amassed over $100,000 in legal fees, and it intends to recoup the cost from those it deems responsible.
At a special council meeting on July 11, the SJ Shire council decided to seek an order for costs from Mr Tewari and Ms Rosha.
A hearing over that matter was held on October 7, and although Mr Tewari attended, no decision was made, with Magistrate Trevor Darge indicating Mr Tewari may be up for partial costs, but not the full amount.
The hearing has been adjourned until Thursday, December 1.
The Shire has estimated the costs of running the fresh election at $22,000, however a final number won’t be known until the conclusion of the election process, as the body responsible for running Local Government Elections, the West Australian Electoral Commission, works on a cost-recovery basis.
On election day the polling place will be the Serpentine Jarrahdale Community Recreation Centre, 38 Mead Street, Byford.
It will be open from 8am to 6pm for electors to cast their vote in person.
A special council meeting and swearing in ceremony for the new councillors will be held at the Shire’s Civic Centre at 7pm on Monday, October 24.