Westbury residents feel they've been "deceived" by the state government and the Meander Valley Council over a prison proposed to be built at the town's industrial site.
It was revealed the mayor and several council staff were made to sign a confidentiality agreement about the prison during meetings with the state government earlier this year.
Despite not being an agenda item, about 50 locals used public question time at Tuesday's meeting to quiz the council.
Resident Chris Donaldson asked if there was any embargo, instruction or directive placed on the council by the state government to prevent information being released.
Still 20 minutes until the doors for the @mvcouncil meeting open and there are more than 40 residents already lined up to come in. It is understood most are here to ask questions about the proposed new prison despite it not being an agenda item. @ExaminerOnline#politas#LGTaspic.twitter.com/sB00HhDSih— Tarlia Jordan (@tarliaj14) October 8, 2019
Acting general manager Jonathon Harmey confirmed the arrangement.
"There was a meeting with the state government and that was the end of August. We had three council employees and the mayor, and all of the people in that room signed confidentiality agreements to not release information discussed," he said.
Mayor Wayne Johnston said briefings were held around the state with other potential sites, with all attendees signing the form.
"As mayor, I was invited to come and sit with the Department of Justice and others to try and get the jail together," he said.
"I could not come into that room without signing that agreement."
Resident Liza deLautour said residents felt deceived by the state government and council.
"We have had no consultation in this process and that is what you're dealing with; you're dealing with angry people who have been lied to," she said.
"There has been a lack of transparency. Transparency is a human rights issue. We have a right to have the opportunity to participate in public affairs and you've taken that away from us and we're really upset about it.
"I feel that our Westbury village ... is now going to be forever lost and known as what I put down as the #prisontown and my question is, how do we stop it."
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Cr Johnston's advice was to lobby the state government, as it is not a council project.
"We as a planning authority, we have no application before us. It's not going to be on council-owned land," he said.
Councillor Frank Nott said councillors had also been maligned.
"We were advised that there will be a community engagement process run by the Department of Justice, once the potential sites are listed," he said.
"We had no knowledge, at all, until last Monday officially and so, therefore, don't blame the council ... I feel deceived by the state government."
During councillor question time, Councillor John Temple asked 13 questions, most of which Mr Harmey said would be better directed to the state government.
A state government spokesman said a thorough process of assessment and due diligence was conducted when selecting the preferred site, with extensive community consultation with the Westbury community, the Meander Valley Council and other key stakeholders planned.
"This standard process has included commercial-in-confidence negotiations to ensure we obtain the best outcome for taxpayers," he said.
Most of the community's questions were about the location and why the proposal could not be located next to the youth detention centre.
Other questions were about the council writing to express interest in having a prison built next to the Ashley Detention Centre site, and how it then became located within the industrial hub.
The first community drop-in sessions is being held on Thursday.
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