Tribunal nixes council war of word

Saskia AdystiAlbany Advertiser
Denmark Shire Council Administration Centre.
Camera IconDenmark Shire Council Administration Centre. Credit: Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

A former Shire of Denmark councillor will no longer have to make a public apology for comments she made on social media.

Former councillor Yasmin Bartlett was ordered by the Local Government Standards Panel in October to apologise to former Shire chief executive Dale Stewart and councillors during an ordinary council meeting over comments on Facebook about Mr Stewart and aspects of his work.

Ms Bartlett did not make the apology, prompting the Shire to refer the matter to the State Administrative Tribunal.

Last Monday, the SAT dismissed the matter, finding there was no need for Ms Bartlett to make the apology given she was no longer a councillor and was not likely to run for council again.

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“Within that 28-day period after 3 October, 2017 (when the panel published its order), Ms Bartlett resigned from being a council member and did not contest the local government elections held on 21 October, 2017,” a member of the SAT said.

“Under the terms of the panel's orders, Ms Bartlett was not obliged to make the apology within the 28-day period.”

The tribunal note its decision related solely to the alleged non-compliance with the panel’s orders and not the original minor breach found by the panel.

“The decision of the tribunal in these proceedings should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the behaviour of Ms Bartlett,” a member of the SAT said.

“If Ms Bartlett was still a council member, the tribunal would have considered imposing a suspended order of a period of disqualification.” In an email to the tribunal on March 23, Ms Bartlett defended her post to say she was only sharing matters of public interest.

“I will not apologise for telling the truth and being a diligent councillor ensuring the Shire of Denmark became fully compliant,” she said.

Ms Bartlett said the ordeal started after four “frivolous” complaints made against her by former and current Denmark councillors.

“Those complaints had a tremendous impact on my business, personal life and mental wellbeing and I find their preparedness to attack an individual councillor is quite abhorrent, disheartening, but more than anything, terribly sad and disappointing,” she said.

Shire of Denmark chief executive Bill Parker said the SAT had made its decision and the Shire would like to put the matter to rest.

“Other than providing the tribunal with the referral material, the Shire made no further submissions in relation to the alleged non-compliance or suggested any appropriate penalty to the tribunal,” he said. “The Shire of Denmark is looking forward to putting this matter behind us.”

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