Shire of Capel tight-lipped over briefing

Capel council: The Shire of Capel council 2019/2020. Photo: Jesinta Burton.
Capel council: The Shire of Capel council 2019/2020. Photo: Jesinta Burton.


The Shire of Capel is remaining tight-lipped over a confidential council briefing with local government law firm McLeod's Barristers & Solicitors late last month.

Documents obtained by the Bunbury Mail indicate the briefing, held on January 30, explored councillor code of conduct, with attendees advised not to publicly criticise the shire in a way that casts "aspersions on a person's competence or credibility", to avoid causing unwarranted offence or embarrassment and to always act in the shire's "best interests".

Attendees were also reminded of their council, organisational and legal obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 and told that the maximum penalty for breaching the act could be a fine of $250,000 and up to two years imprisonment.

"Each council member may be personally liable if shire's breach occurred as a result of - 'any neglect'; or 'the consent or connivance' of the council member," the briefing notes read.

The last of the briefing notes, entitled "Where to from here?", alluded to risks of "organisational dysfunction" for the shire, council and individuals and encouraged staff to make "informed choices".

It is not yet known what prompted the briefing, who engaged the law firm to conduct the briefing or how much the briefing cost the Shire of Capel.

The Bunbury Mail did contact the Shire of Capel to discuss the briefing, however, it refused to provide comment.

The briefing follows what appears to have been a period of unrest at the Shire of Capel.

According to publicly available council documents, shire president Michael Southwell moved a motion at a special meeting on January 14 calling for council to engage an independent employment consultation and initiate an urgent review of chief executive officer Ian McCabe's performance.

As part of the motion, councillor Southwell suggested the council advise the chief executive officer to only undertake tasks delegated by statute.

The motion was lost 5-4, with councillors Kaara Andrew, Doug Kitchen, Murray Scott, Sebastian Schiano and Debbie Radisich voting against the move.