Landgate document shows Lot 7 Dewar Rd transfer details

Shire of Gingin chief executive officer Aaron Cook says he undertook all negotiations with the seller of Lot 7 Dewar Rd. File picture: Yanchep News Online

A LANDGATE document shows the Shire of Gingin bought Lot 7 Dewar Rd from Glenn F Rule, who is a relative of a former councillor, who did not stand for re-election in October 2023.

The Landgate document records the transfer of the Granville lot from Glenn F Rule to the Shire of Gingin as being lodged on January 29 – the contract date of December 12, 2023 appears on the document.

On Saturday, March 16 Yanchep News Online reported that the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC) said it could not say whether the shire was being investigated due to WA Local Government Act confidentiality obligations.

Among the questions, Yanchep News Online had asked DLGSC if any complaints relating to the shire were about the purchase of Lot 7 Dewar Rd for future sporting land and concern that President Wayne Fewster had taken part in meetings and negotiations when he should have disclosed any conflicts of interest.

On March 18 in response to questions from Yanchep News Online, Gingin chief executive officer Aaron Cook said the property was not owned by a relative of Cr Fewster’s when it was purchased by the council and that all negotiations had been undertaken by the chief executive officer.

Council minutes show former councillor Kim Rule was not at the July 18 meeting last year when Cr Frank Johnson moved a motion seconded by Cr Robert Kestel that the council authorise the chief executive officer Aaron Cook to obtain an independent valuation of Lot 7 Dewar Rd.

The successful motion also called for the involvement of Cr Fewster – who was also not at the July 18 meeting – to along with Mr Cook enter into negotiations with the landowner with a view to agreeing to an appropriate purchase price.

The third part of the motion said in the event an agreement was reached the matter should be taken back to the council for formal consideration.

Cr Fewster was at the September 19 meeting when Cr Johnson seconded by Cr Linda Balcombe successfully moved a motion that the council go into a confidential session to discuss an officer’s report relating to the purchase of land for a future Gingin sporting precinct at Lot 7 Dewar Rd as an item of urgent business.

“The meeting was closed to the public and all members of the public present in the gallery, the building and planning manager and the governance coordinator left the council chambers at 6.09pm,’’ the minutes said.

The minutes record that in that confidential session Cr Andrea Vis seconded by Cr Erik Sorensen successfully moved that the resolution remain confidential until negotiations were complete.

Former councillor Kim Rule was not at the September 19 meeting but was at the October 17 meeting – the last meeting before the October 2023 local government elections.

On March 8 the shire posted on its website and also published in The West Australian on March 9 a public notice saying it proposed to borrow loan funds of $746,293 for a 20-year term at an interest rate not exceeding 6 per cent resulting from the recent purchase of land at Lot 7 Dewar Rd.

Less than two hours after Yanchep News Online asked the shire questions on March 14, the shire posted on its website a statement attributed to Cr Fewster that it wished to clarify details about the recent public notice regarding its proposal to borrow funds for the recent purchase of the land.

Mr Cook, whose retirement was announced on March 6 and who finishes at the shire in late July, said Lot 7 Dewar Rd had been independently valued by McGees.

The Shire of Gingin was also asked if DLGSC was investigating the council or anyone at the shire following a senior investigations officer meeting with some of the losing candidates in last October’s local government election.

“Any complaint received must be dealt with in a confidential manner and therefore it is inappropriate to comment,’’ Mr Cook said.

Local Government Minister Hannah Beazley’s office also said she was unable to comment.