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Resignation allows me to speak out

07 March 2007

by Helen Shervington to the Busselton~Dunsborough Mail

Last Wednesday I felt forced to take the drastic step of resigning my position as a councillor on the Busselton Shire Council.

It was a very hard decision to take and I felt sad doing it. I have enjoyed working for our wonderful community and have had great support and encouragement from so many people. I would like to thank them for that and offer an explanation for my resignation.

I resigned in the hope it would draw attention to how dysfunctional the council has become since the CCC public inquiry into it and the Smiths Beach development in particular.

In my view, resigning my position relieves me of my sense of loyalty to the council and enables me to speak out.

Along with most of the community I was shocked by the revelations on some Busselton councillors that were put at the CCC inquiry in October/November last year.

Since that time, I believe there have been continued activities in the council which are in the interests of developers and their lobbyists. This includes putting up motions and attacking the integrity of staff who advise against such actions.

I am also aware that confidential information on council matters has been passed on to the press and other parties to whom it may be of interest.

The atmosphere that dominates now is one of contempt for the council and the community. I believe our community deserves more than it is getting at the council level, but it is also very lucky to have fine and able staff who run the shire and will continue to do so. It is largely because of the integrity of the shire staff that the matters exposed in the CCC inquiry came to light. In another time the approvals may have been quietly provided with no questions asked. To remove these staff members from their positions or to discredit them has been a major objective of the developers, their lobbyists and the councillors who do their bidding. These activities are still continuing.

The CCC have indicated their report into council and the Smiths Beach development could take another two to three months to finalise. It is likely that in this time a number of significant matters will come before the council for decisions. In seeking the assistance of the Department of Local Government there has been advice that from an external point of view the council continues to operate functionally and consequently they could not step in and take action at this time.

I believe that there is no capacity to censure councillors in local government is a major weakness in the system and in our case has led to a situation in which it is impossible to continue to operate as a council that provides fair and considered decisions for our community.

I have discussed my feelings on this matter with Kevin Douglas in his capacity as president since last November. I remained on council until now because of my respect for him and my knowledge that he was working to maintain the credibility and integrity of council and I supported him in this endeavour.

Kevin's decision to resign relieved me of my commitment to him and by joining him in resigning from council I hope it will help to focus the community and those responsible for local government administration on the seriousness of the current situation.

There are so many matters of corruption being dealt with at the moment in WA. It is important our own issues are not overlooked because of this.

I have written to the Premier on the matter and the Department of Local Government in the absence of a Minister for Local Government.

I hope the Shire of Busselton can get from this the open, transparent and honest government it deserves.

Copyright 2007 by Rural Press Ltd. This report is for information only. No charge for such use is made and the material is not being used for commercial purposes. The text has not been modified from the original report.

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