A SECOND long-running legal battle between the Shire of Toodyay and former shire president Charlie Wroth – this time over an alleged business debt – has been settled behind closed doors for less than half the $14,300 claimed by the shire.
And as in a previous court case against Mr Wroth and former shire CEO Graham Merrick, the shire appears to have spent far more of ratepayers’ money on legal costs than it recovered.
Councillors voted 8-0 on June 1 to accept Shire CEO Stan Scott’s recommendation that “the council settle the action against Warragenny Pty Ltd by accepting the defendant’s offer of $5500”.
The shire sued Mr Wroth’s private company in the Perth Magistrate’s Court last year, claiming it paid Warragenny for gravel that was not delivered during recovery operations after Toodyay’s devastating 2009 bush fire which destroyed 37 homes.
Mr Wroth – an award-winning Julimar farmer who also chairs Toodyay’s St John Ambulance volunteer service and was widely hailed at the time as a community hero for leading the shire’s local emergency response to the fire – denied the shire’s allegations.
The council held a special meeting at short notice at the unusual time of 9am on a Thursday and went behind closed doors for more than 40 minutes to discuss Mr Scott’s recommendation to end the court action.
There were no visitors in the public gallery, and the decision was revealed publicly only when minutes of the special council meeting appeared on the shire website five days later.
There was no public announcement in the shire’s new Toodyay Community Newsletter.
The shire’s case against Mr Wroth’s company was handled by Perth law firm Civic Legal, which was paid $8759.30 in legal costs in April and a further $5127.38 on May 16, costing the shire an apparent loss of more than $8000 in those two months alone.
This is in addition to previous shire costs of at least $571,000 paid to Civic Legal to sue Mr Wroth and Mr Merrick over another matter that ended in January with repayments estimated from shire accounts to total only $60,000 – a further loss of more than $500,000 of ratepayers’ money.