Esperance Shire Councillor to make public apology after regulation breach

Esperance Shire Council: Councillors Shelley Payne, Dale Piercey, Lara McIntyre, deputy shire president Natalie Bowman, councillor Basil Parker, shire president Victoria Brown, councillor John Parsons, councillor Ron Padgurskis and councillor Steve McMullen. Photo: Jesinta Burton.
Esperance Shire Council: Councillors Shelley Payne, Dale Piercey, Lara McIntyre, deputy shire president Natalie Bowman, councillor Basil Parker, shire president Victoria Brown, councillor John Parsons, councillor Ron Padgurskis and councillor Steve McMullen. Photo: Jesinta Burton.

Esperance Shire councillor Dale Piercey will make a public apology after being found to have breached Local Government Regulations by publishing false information about state funding for the Esperance Jetty.

The state’s Local Government Standards Panel considered three minor breach complaints, two of which were made by councillors, about councillor Piercey’s conduct after she posted two false statements regarding funding for works on the Esperance Tanker Jetty on a community Facebook Page on January 10, 2018.

Councillor Piercey was also found to have failed to correct her statements and apologise when presented with the correct information.

Councillor Piercey stated that the funding had been offered and refused by the shire and said that when politicians and other officials were taken out to inspect the jetty’s condition they were shown the worst areas.

The comments, published to a page with more than 11,000 members, were found to have breached regulation 7.1(b) of the Local Government Regulations 2007 which states a council member must not make improper use of the person’s office to cause detriment to the local government or any other person.

Complainant and deputy shire president Natalie Bowman said the comments were false and had the ability to damage the shire’s reputation and further confuse and distress the community over what was already a highly emotive and divisive issue.

The Panel found Esperance shire president Victoria Brown and councillor Bowman had asked councillor Piercey in three emails to remove or correct the statements but she did not do so.

The comments referred to $50,000 of financial support, endorsed by then Regional Development minister Terry Redman, which was officially offered in writing to Esperance Shire Council on January 5, 2017.

The offer made was subject to the shire submitting a ‘Request to Access Administration Fund’ form and confirmation they had exhausted all other avenues to retain the existing jetty structure.

A response was sent by the shire’s chief executive officer Matthew Scott to then Goldfields-Esperance Development Commission chief executive officer Shayne Flanagan on February 7, 2017, including the shire’s methodology in determining restoration of the Tanker Jetty not to be a “prudent and feasible” option. 

According to the Commission, the offer was not finalised as the election was called and the subsequent caretaker conventions were put in place.

In a response to the Panel, councillor Piercey insisted her comments were substantially correct and that the facts spoke for themselves.

The Panel noted it was the first minor breach by councillor Piercey and deemed a public apology an appropriate penalty.

Speaking to The Esperance Express, councillor Piercey confirmed she would be making the apology at the next General Council Meeting on Tuesday, November 27, and that it was an absolute obligation.