Shire of Capel electors up in arms after meeting cut short

Photo: Jesinta Burton.
Photo: Jesinta Burton.

A number of Shire of Capel residents were up in arms at last night's Annual Electors Meeting after it was formally declared closed before motions could be moved by the gallery.

The meeting was declared closed by shire president Michael Southwell at 7.47pm after more than one hour of general business and public question time, effectively skipping item 5.3 'Motions from electors' on the agenda and silencing the gallery.

From the moment the gavel struck the sound block, the 112-strong gallery was a sea of electors waving green papers, distributed by the shire's own administration as proof of residency for the sole purpose of voting on motions moved from the floor.

As councillors began gathering their paperwork and preparing to leave, prominent community member and Stratham resident Brian Hastie stormed up to the podium, reiterating that the shire had stated that motions could be moved in its own agenda.

"Excuse me, Mr president," Mr Hastie said.

"You declared that motions could be moved in the paperwork. You declared motions in the paperwork, Mr president!"

"This is disgusting! Read your own agenda," another elector yelled.

"Enough, there is no need for that," another rebutted.

It is understood Mr Hastie had prepared to move several motions, one of which addressed councillor Southwell's decision to publish a public statement regarding the southern alignment of the Bunbury Outer Ring Road.

"You declared that motions could be moved in the paperwork. You declared motions in the paperwork, Mr president!"

Stratham resident Brian Hastie.

Speaking with the Bunbury Mail, shire president Michael Southwell acknowledged that, on reflection, the situation could have been handled better, but said that it arose out of confusion over the meeting's agenda.

It is understood that councillor Southwell has since contacted the shire administration and councillors to arrange a special meeting in early March to allow electors to move the motions.

"I am genuinely sorry about the misunderstanding, and it arose because of confusion over the agenda," councillor Southwell said.

"Unfortunately, some confusion arose in relation to the order of business and it became apparent after the meeting that some with plans to move motions were not aware of an opportunity to put them forward.

"I apologise for this. I should have done things better.

"When I called the meeting to a close, I was unaware that anybody had any outstanding business or any motions they wanted to move.

"That was the first I'd heard of it. I couldn't reopen the meeting, because you are required by the Local Government Act to arrange a new meeting and give the necessary notice.

"They [attendees] felt aggrieved and I do understand that, but I was very disturbed by some of the threatening behaviour that I witnessed.

"I followed the correct policies and procedures and I did apologise to everybody."

Following the meeting, Mr Hastie apologised for the outburst and said he planned to take the matter to the Department of Local Government.

"I was very angry, and I did lose my emotions back there," he said.

"Unfortunately, I upset some of the administration staff. Why hand those papers out if you're not going to allow us to vote?

"I had discussions with the chief executive officer just yesterday and he confirmed that we could have motions from the floor.

"Unfortunately, the president wouldn't allow me, or anyone else, to put any motions forward.

"I don't know why. I plan to move forward with these motions and I will be writing to the minister for Local Government and other politicians to highlight the way that this council is being run."

Mr Hastie told the Bunbury Mail that he planned to progress the prepared motions at the special meeting.

For more, be sure to pick up a copy of next week's edition of the Bunbury Mail.