LAWYERS acting for Bayswater mayor Filomena Piffaretti have written to resident James Kozak requesting an apology and removal of “false and malicious allegations” on Facebook.
Mr Kozak maintains several Facebook pages criticising and mocking Bayswater councillor Catherine Ehrhardt, candidate Sophie Edge, and most recently targeting Cr Piffaretti after she was elected (“New mayor slams online intimidation”, Voice, October 23, 2021). He posted images of Cr Piffaretti and fellow local government members enjoying a social occasion at a previous private function, with captions Mr Kozak described as “satire”.
Cr Pifarretti privately engaged Loughton Yorke Lawyers to send Mr Kozak a “concerns notice” stating his pages:
• “convey the clear imputation that our client is not capable of undertaking the role and responsibilities of the mayoral position she has been duly elected to”;
• “contains the misleading implication that the picture of our client was taken on the city premises on the occasion of her election as mayor and therefore that her dress and manner was unsuitable for such an occasion… [imputing] that she does not execute her duties in an appropriate manner”;
• “conveys the clear imputation that our client is incapable of controlling her bodily functions… and furthermore, in attempting to ridicule and humiliate our client, imply she is unsuited and inappropriate for the role to which she has been duly and properly elected”; and,
• Regarding “a photo of an unidentified blonde haired woman (clearly intended to falsely represent our client) hunched over, having vomited on the floor conveys the clear imputation that out client, inter alia, is incapable of controlling her alcohol intake, will not work in the best interest of the City of Bayswater residents and does not possess the capability to undertake the role and responsibilities of the mayoral position”.
The notice says “we have advised our client to seek damages for defamation from you personally”, but then stated Cr Piffaretti requested they only pursue a defamation action if Mr Kozak didn’t remove the posts and publish a pre-worded apology.
Defamation concerns notices are intended to give the recipient an option for a quick resolution, averting costly and lengthy court action if they heed the requests. They often request the recipient cover the defamed party’s legal fees but this letter did not include a monetary request.
“We trust common sense will prevail and there will be no need for our client to proceed with any further legal action to enforce her rights,” the letter concluded.
Instead Mr Kozak took the unusual action of publicly posting the four page notice in the same Facebook as the subject photos.
“Mayor Piffy and junior mayor Ehrhardt, play the Woman Card,” Mr Kozak said in his accompanying commentary.
Mr Kozak posed a rhetorical statement to a page follower asking “if you feel the suppression of one lone voice on social media is a worthwhile expenditure of public funds”, however the City of Bayswater is not paying for Cr Piffaretti’s legal fees.
Mr Kozak waved off a commenter who suggested he get legal representation, saying: “It doesn’t take a team of lawyers to defeat suppression of protected political speech.
“All it takes is for one mind, regardless of law school graduation to point to the law which protects this speech.”
by DAVID BELL