THE Shire of Gingin says councillors were made aware when the Gingin council dealt with the Guilderton caravan park tender process that chief executive officer Aaron Cook had prior dealings with Belgravia Leisure’s WA state manager when Mr Cook was the Narrogin CEO.
Last year Yanchep News Online became aware of a reference to the Guilderton Holiday Park, which quoted chief executive officer Aaron Cook as saying some staff had worked with BelgraviaPRO for other facilities in previous roles at other shires so they knew from that experience how passionate BelgraviaPRO were and just what they could bring to the table.
Back in January 2022 Yanchep News Online asked if the Gingin staff, who worked with BelgraviaPRO for other facilities in previous roles at other shires, worked on the development application or tender for the Guilderton Holiday Park and was Mr Cook among those staff who worked with BelgraviaPRO for other facilities in previous roles at other shires.
In response the shire said no shire staff had worked with Belgravia PRO at any of Belgravia’s other facilities.
It has since come to light that Mr Cook did have dealings with Belgravia Leisure’s WA now state manager Rohan Gunton back in 2014 but it was when Mr Gunton worked for another organisation not Belgravia Leisure.
That year when he was Narrogin CEO Mr Cook was the contact person for the Narrogin Leisure Centre third party facilitation provider tender, which was awarded to the YMCA and at that stage now Belgravia Leisure WA state manager Rohan Gunton then worked for the YMCA.
The report on the Narrogin Leisure Centre third party facilitation provider written by Mr Cook and presented to the March 11, 2014 Narrogin ordinary council meeting said the CEO performance review and advisory-audit committee would review all tenders presented and identify the preferred tenderer.
About a week ago Yanchep News Online asked if at any stage before the Guilderton café-general store lease was awarded to Belgravia Leisure had Mr Cook disclosed to Gingin councillors the extent of his previous relationship with Mr Gunton as presumably he must have had some conversations either by phone, letter or email with Mr Gunton in 2014.
On Thursday Shire of Gingin President Wayne Fewster said when dealing with the Guilderton caravan park tender process, which he said was prior to the Guilderton Café lease process, Mr Cook advised councillors that he had dealings with Mr Gunton in his previous role with the YMCA WA during his time as Narrogin CEO.
Cr Fewster said scenarios like this were common in local government where contractors, shire employees and elected members crossed paths as they moved from one organisation to another.
“There has never been any hiding of the fact that Mr Cook dealt with Mr Gunton at the Shire of Narrogin and the Gingin council was aware of their association prior to the Guilderton Café lease process commencing,’’ he said.
Yanchep News Online also asked if Mr Cook was part of any Shire of Gingin committee or review process that decided the preferred and/or final tenderer for the Guilderton café lease.
Cr Fewster said there was no committee involved in the Guilderton café lease process and the item was dealt with as an agenda item by the council.
“As CEO, Mr Cook was instructed by the council to facilitate the process for inviting tenders and preparing subsequent reports to the council for determination,’’ he said.
“However, he had no decision-making role and the ultimate decision to appoint the preferred tenderer was made by the council following significant discussions and assessment.’’
As previously reported by Yanchep News Online when the shire considered the lease of the Guilderton café and shop back in May 2021 the officer’s report – written by Mr Cook – recommended a closed tender process involving just two businesses – Belgravia Health and Leisure Group and Cardrew Trading with the then lessees the Enright family only invited to join the closed tender process when councillors amended the officer’s report to include them.