Vote count turns ugly

Vote count turns ugly

directly elected

Lack of catering at the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale’s vote count at the Civic Centre on Saturday night led to an accusation that food supplied by a councillor could be “poisoned”, leading to an alleged verbal argument and physical threat. 

Candidates were sent an email by the shire’s chief executive Paul Martin on October 17 informing them that no catering would be supplied at the formal vote counting event and only tea and coffee would be available for the candidates and their guests.

A follow up email from Mr Martin on October 18 stated that he had since received enquiries from candidates regarding the ability to bring food to the election count and that they would be able to bring food along on the proviso the room was left clean and tidy. 

Candidate Shaye Mack said he brought along a cheeseboard, while councillor Rob Coales decided to bring pizzas to the event. 

Mr Coales said the alleged altercation occurred when he offered some food to a group of people in the foyer, who he said included current councillors Bill Denholm and Morgan Byas, then candidate and now elected deputy president Dave Atwell, then candidate and now elected councillor Lauren Strange and SJ Ratepayers Association president Alan Clarkson. 

“Mr Clarkson said ‘no, you probably poisoned it’ and I said ‘well that’s a bit of a silly comment to make’ and I said ‘by the way Alan I heard you have been talking about me, if there is something you want to talk to me about, talk to my face, don’t talk behind my back’,” Mr Coales said.

“As a result he then stood up and has said to me words to the effect of ‘ I know who you are, I know all about you, you are just an agitator, you’re a fool’.” 

Mr Coales said Mr Atwell then allegedly stood up and said ‘go away Rob you don’t need to be here, go away’ and I said ‘Dave I am just here to offer food’.

A short time later Mr Coales said another alleged altercation occurred when he asked Mr Clarkson if he might like to apologise about his earlier comments, to which Mr Clarkson allegedly said no. 

Mr Coales alleges Mr Atwell again stood up in Mr Clarkson’s defence and claimed Mr Atwell told him to “piss off, f*** off, you don’t need to be here”.

Several other words were exchanged before Mr Coales alleges Mr Atwell clenched his fist and said, “I want to knock your f***ing block off”.

It was then that Mr Coales alleges councillor Bill Denholm stepped in to break up the altercation, which was witnessed by a handful of people both inside the council chambers and outside the foyer.

Mr Coales has since submitted a complaint about the alleged incident in writing to the chief executive Paul Martin for his consideration. 

Mr Atwell confirmed to The Examiner that he and Mr Coales had “a difference in opinion and it boiled over to a bit of conversation”. 

“I talked to Mr Coales afterward and as far as I am concerned the matter is finished at that,” Mr Atwell said.

Mr Denholm confirmed there was an incident and he is very disappointed, while Mr Clarkson said he has been advised that the matter could be taken further and he wishes not to comment at the moment.