The City of Perth is investigating how $25,000 of ratepayer money was spent appointing external advisors last year without the knowledge of full council, which has prompted chief executive Martin Mileham to take personal leave.
At a press conference on Monday, Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi confirmed Mr Mileham had taken leave after receiving the report from what she said was a “non-council-endorsed investigation conducted by an external legal firm”.
The investigation took place between November 17 and January 2018. Mr Mileham is understood to have received the report on Tuesday or Wednesday last week and on Thursday advised Ms Scaffidi he would be taking personal leave.
“Council were only made aware of this matter late last week,” Ms Scaffidi said. “At this time I cannot take questions on who initiated the investigation and how it was undertaken as this is currently being independently legally assessed. I can say, however, that all these matters occurred… when I was away between September 8 and January 8.”
Deputy mayor Jemma Green was Acting Lord Mayor for three months while Ms Scaffidi was stood aside from mayoral duties. Ms Green was unable to be contacted for comment.
Ms Scaffidi said Mr Mileham had “understandably” taken the report personally and had advised her he would be taking leave. She said she did not believe there were any concerns at the city about Mr Mileham’s performance or conduct.
The city’s CEO performance review committee met on Friday for what Ms Scaffidi said was a “normal CEO performance contract obligation”. Asked if Mr Mileham’s decision to take leave was triggered by anything raised at that committee meeting Ms Scaffidi said she was unable to answer but had been notified the night before of Mr Mileham’s intention to take leave.
Mr Mileham did not respond to requests for comment.
The estimated cost of the report was $25,000. The city has now asked its legal team to investigate how the external advisors were appointed.
This is the latest turmoil to hit the city, which is still reeling from Ms Scaffidi’s long-running travel and gifts scandal. Ms Scaffidi appeared at a State Administrative Tribunal penalty hearing last week and is still waiting to learn what penalty she faces for 19 breaches of the Local Government Act.
In response to reports that Mr Mileham was on personal leave, including allegations that he had raised concerns about an unsafe workplace that had triggered health concerns, Local Government Minister David Templeman said the functionality of the city “will have to be looked at through the department”.