Votes could be invalid

Votes could be invalid

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The 2021 Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale council.

Legal advice has been sought by the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale following arrests of two members of the public, during an incident of mail theft where around 50 election envelopes were seized by Police.

A 39-year-old woman faced court and received a fine in relation to the incident, with a 47-year-old man due to face court again next month.

Last week on Wednesday, November 10, the Shire of Serpentine Jarrahdale held a special council meeting to formally consider irregularities associated with the 2021 local government election following receipt of legal advice.

During the meeting Shire President, Michelle Rich explained to residents that she called the meeting with the chief executive to ensure the democratic processes were upheld.

“Council is committed to maintaining the community’s confidence in the council and the shire’s reputation,” she said.

During the meeting, Councillor Rob Coales claimed financial interests in the matter due to the sitting fee he receives and election costs.

Gary Singh also claimed interest in the matter.

Despite claiming financial interest, Mr Coales requested council consider allowing him to stay in the chambers during the discussion and vote.

Mr Coales and Mr Singh both left chambers as council deliberated.

Ms Rich put forth the motion to deny the request, which was seconded by Deputy President Dave Atwell, with councillors Lauren Strange, and Morgan Byas voting for the motion.

Mr Atwell explained if the council begins to allow people to vote who have a financial interest in matters, then they would be able to influence key decisions.

Councillors Michael Dagostino, Dean Strautins and Tricia Duggin voted against the motion with Mr Dagostino foreshadowing an alternative that Mr Coales be allowed in chambers without voting.

Mr Coales and Mr Singh were both unable to stay within chambers as council deliberated.

The council then moved on to deliberate the options for whether they consider making a complaint regarding the validity of the 2021 Ordinary Local Government election in the North Ward under section 4.80 of the Local Government Act 1995.

Options included council noting legal advice obtained by the Shire related to the election and the response from the Western Australian Electoral Commission and resolve to make an invalidity complaint.

The second option was to take no further action despite legal advice.

Ms Rich put forth an alternate motion to amend option one to include the wording that the council request the chief executive to use the council report for 6.1.1 as supporting material for the complaint plus any factual information together with a form 53C.

Council went behind closed doors during the decision-making process due to the involvement of confidential information.

When the public returned, the decision was voted on unanimously to resolve that the Shire submit an invalidity complaint with the amendment, with Ms Rich’s reasoning for the amendment to ensure the information contained in the supporting material is factually correct.

Ms Rich said the most important consideration was to protect the integrity of the democratic process.