The embattled City of Perth has been engulfed by another scandal, with its chief executive Martin Mileham going on personal leave and complaining that he feels unsafe in his workplace.
Mr Mileham went on leave after discovering last week that an unnamed person within the local government – possibly an elected councillor – had enlisted a secret investigation into him.
Law firm Herbert Smith Freehills was paid $25,000 in ratepayers’ money to investigate Mr Mileham for undisclosed reasons, Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi told reporters.
Ms Scaffidi said she had only just found out about the undercover investigation – known as “project percy” herself.
She said she intended to reveal more later this week about how and why that money was able to be spent on an investigation without council approval, once the city’s own legal advisers had investigated.
“This is clearly extremely concerning … this was a non-council endorsed investigation that was allowed to occur,” she told reporters.
“Clearly Mr Mileham has understandably taken this matter personally and it has caused him to go on to sick leave.
“I have great concerns for his health and wellbeing at this time, that is the most paramount and important issue right now.”
Mr Mileham has sent a “cease and desist” letter to the council, warning that he was reserving his rights.
The terms of his employment contract had been breached due to the fact he had been investigated without being told, he is alleging.
That was blamed for causing health issues to him and affecting his family and his staff’s wellbeing.
Minister for Local Government David Templeman said in a statement his department was also investigating.
Ms Scaffidi only recently returned to the position as lord mayor herself, after standing down for four months following a ban by the State Administrative Tribunal for not disclosing travel and gifts.
The city is also currently being investigated by the Department of Local Government over new claims that councillors and staff had not disclosed event tickets as gifts or declared conflicts over sponsorship matters.