The Local Government Standards Panel was established in 2007 to fulfil two key objectives:
- Administer justice and resolve complaints relatively quickly.
- Provide the local government sector with guidance and benchmarks about acceptable standards of behaviour.
The standards panel has the authority to make binding decisions to resolve allegations of minor misconduct submitted by a local government. It deals with complaints about council members who it is alleged have committed a breach of one or more of the provisions of the Rules of Conduct Regulations. The panel is independent of the Minister for Local Government and the Department of Local Government and Communities (DLGC).
The standards panel also has the jurisdiction to deal with misconduct allegations that relate to conduct at meetings under the provisions of a local government's Standing Orders Local Law. The standards panel has no jurisdiction to deal with complaints made against local government employees.
Evidence and proceedings
The standards panel does not have investigative powers; findings and decisions of the panel are made on the basis of the information it receives. Proceedings are normally held in private (i.e. usually parties to a complaint and members of the public are not in attendance). However, the panel may, if it considers the circumstances warrant, hear evidence and conduct its deliberations in the presence of the parties concerned.
If the standards panel finds that a breach has occurred, it may deal with the complaint by dismissing it or ordering that the council member:
- publically apologises
- is publically censured, or
- undertakes training.
The standards panel may issue an order that imposes two or more of these sanctions.
Natural justice in determining complaints
The standards panel ensures that procedural fairness is accorded to any elected member who is the subject of a complaint.
The standards panel comprises three members:
- An officer of the Department who is the presiding member.
- A person who has experience as a member of a council.
- A person with relevant legal knowledge.
The current panel members are:
Sheryl Siekierka, manager local government legislation, Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries
Sheryl Siekierka, BA, PG Dip Ed, GD Bus (Acctg), MBA, is Manager Local Government Legislation at the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries. Sheryl has an extensive policy and legislative background having led projects in such diverse areas as business e-commerce, telecommunications, local government reform, heritage and dog and cat management. She has worked on local government policy and legislation since 2008.
Paul Kelly, councillor, Town of Claremont
Councillor Paul Kelly has extensive local government experience. He has been councillor for the Town of Claremont since 1995 and deputy mayor for more than 10 years. He was deputy president of the Western Australian Local Government Association and a State councillor of the organisation for 11 years. He is a director on a number of boards, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and works as executive director of a regulatory authority.
Ms Merranie Strauss
Ms Merranie Strauss, admitted to the legal profession by the Supreme Court of Western Australia. She is sessional Legal Member of the Mental Health Tribunal and has held other relevant positions including as a Deputy Registrar of the Workers' Compensation Board, an Acting Registrar of the District Court and a lawyer with the Anti-Corruption Commission and the Corruption and Crime Commission.
DLGC provides administrative, case management and legal research assistance to the standards panel.