A MISCONDUCT finding against Stirling councillor Elizabeth Re dating back to 2015 has been overturned by the State Administrative Tribunal.
At the time the Local Government Standards Panel found that Cr Re had been aggressive to a council staffer.
But the press release from her lawyer about the overturned decision has been met with legal threats from Stirling council, which claims Cr Re has now defamed the mayor and a city staff member in the release and in other comments to the media.
The now-overturned LGSP finding was released in September last year and a notice of censure against Cr Re was published in the West Australian.
It related to a conversation Cr Re had with a new council staff member in April 2015, “during which it was alleged that [Cr Re] acted in an aggressive and intimidating manner”.
New evidence presented to the SAT has seen that decision overturned, finding Cr Re did not breach any standards during that conversation.
The SAT report stated “clearly no sanction should result. It is therefore regrettable that the sanction…has already, to a large extent, been imposed.”
After the decision was released, Cr Re sent out a press release through her lawyer stating she had been given the all clear and that the SAT had not accepted some of the evidence provided by a council manager.
Stirling’s lawyers were quick to respond and Cr Re received a letter claiming she’d made “defamatory comments” about the mayor Giovanni Italiano and the manager: “your attention is drawn to section 35(1) of the Defamation Act 2005 which empowers a court to award up to $250,000 in damages for defamation”.
“If you wish to avoid defamation proceedings being commenced against you, the following action is required immediately,” and it tells her to publish a full retraction of the statements made to any media outlets she’d contacted, including “an unqualified apology”.
Cr Re said she will not do that, as the press release her lawyer wrote was based on SAT findings and contained no untruths. The lawyer’s letter also reminded her that she wasn’t supposed to speak publicly about council matters under the City’s code of conduct.
Stirling is one of the few councils left that only lets the mayor speak publicly.
by DAVID BELL