Shire set to appeal WAIRC decision ordering $40,000 payment

Tayler NealeAlbany Advertiser

The Shire of Denmark is set to appeal a decision made by the Western Australian Industrial Relations Commission to pay serving councillor Rob Whooley more than $40,000 after losing a legal case relating to the termination of Cr Whooley’s employment as the Shire’s infrastructure director.

The commission found in January that Cr Whooley had been unfairly dismissed in June 2015 after former Shire chief executive Dale Stewart failed to consult the council before terminating Cr Whooley’s contract as infrastructure director, a role he had been in for more than nine years.

Cr Whooley was seeking payment for the remainder of a three-year contract that started in September 2014, however Commissioner Damian Matthews found that Cr Whooley’s letter of resignation in October 2015, allowing him to begin as a councillor, prevented a full payout.

“The respondent (Shire) breached the contract of employment by not remunerating the claimant (Cr Whooley) in accordance with the contract from June 6, 2015 until October 19, 2015, when the claimant resigned,” he said.

“His damage is the remuneration not paid to him for that period minus the month of salary he was paid upon termination and any money he earned from other work in that period.”

WAIRC held a quantum hearing on April 19 and decided on a final bill of $43,893.71.

Shire chief executive Bill Parker said their legal team believed there was grounds to appeal.

“The Shire of Denmark’s legal representatives firmly consider that the commissioner made two errors in his decision, namely that the termination of Mr Whooley’s employment was not valid or effective and that a settlement agreement reached by both parties during a conciliation in earlier proceedings, before the Fair Work Commission, was void,” he said.

Mr Parker also indicated that any payout to Cr Whooley would not be covered by insurance.

“The employment benefits awarded to Mr Whooley by the commission are payable directly by the Shire from its own funds,” he said.

“If there is a calculated opportunity to minimise council’s financial exposure, we are obligated to pursue it.”

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