CITY councillors yesterday backed chief executive Bruce Anson in the ‘Wilma Wright’ bogus letter controversy.
Former mayor Mike Neoh and councillors John Harris, Rob Askew and Andrew Fawcett said they had full confidence in their CEO.
Cr Neoh was speaking after Mr Anson’s son admitted he was the man behind the pseudonym Wilma Wright used in a controversial letter published by The Standard.
The letter, from ‘Wilma Wright of Hopkins Point Road’, mocked election candidates Peter Hulin, Peter Sycopoulis and Jennifer Lowe by comparing them to a scene in Monty Python’s The Life of Brian.
The trio allege a dirty tricks campaign and say the letter was an 11th-hour bid to sway voters. They are demanding a top-level inquiry in the belief that serious offences against the Local Government Act have been committed.
Council boss Bruce Anson has categorically denied any involvement in his son’s actions.
Cr Neoh said Mr Anson’s son was an adult and could make his own decisions.
“I’m confident the electoral process hasn’t been influenced at all in terms of the letter to the editor.
“It would be different if a candidate or councillor put out a fake how-to-vote card or material that influenced the election,” Cr Neoh said.
After the election results are known at the weekend, Crs Hulin and Lowe and Mr Sycopoulis will push ahead with calls for an investigation by Victoria Police, the Victorian Electoral Commission, the Local Government Inspectorate and the proposed new Anti-Corruption Commission being set up by the state government.
It is an offence under Section 55A of the Local Government Act to engage in conduct that misleads or deceives voters.
“It is also an offence under Section 55C of the same act if the author’s name and address are not included in a letter ‘‘containing electoral matter’’.
The Standard received the letter at the centre of the storm on Monday, October 15, at 5.32pm from the email address email@example.com.
The paper did not breach the Local Government Act when it published the letter in good faith on Saturday, October 20, in that it sufficiently complied with the act by setting out the ‘‘author’s name and the suburb or locality’’.
The newspaper did not take additional take steps to independently verify the author’s identity.
Candidates Hulin, Lowe and Sycopoulis raised concerns about the letter on Monday, October 22, saying they questioned the identity of the author and were suspicious about the level of council knowledge it contained.
The newspaper sought a reply from firstname.lastname@example.org twice — at 9.21am on the morning of October 22 and again at 9.36am on the morning of October 23 — but received no reply.
On October 24, the newspaper contacted Jacob Anson through his workplace email at the Queensland AFL from which he later responded.
The Standard has still not received a reply from email@example.com and as yet has not identified the owner of the email address.
Cr John Harris said he had “all the confidence in the world in our CEO”. He said the letter cited information that was in the public domain.
“Bruce can’t be held responsible for his son’s comments. As an adult he’s (Jacob) responsible for his own comments. I’m not sure about using a different name, but others text into the paper and don’t use their names.”
Mayor Jacinta Ermacora described the letter as “but one example of many anonymous criticisms published by The Standard against members of our community including council and councillors”.
Cr Askew said he had full confidence in Mr Anson but was “disappointed with the actions of some other people”, who he declined to name.
Bruce Anson was yesterday reappointed to his position as chairman of Regional Development Australia (RDA) Barwon South West.
Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean announced the reappointment, saying committee members were local leaders with diverse skills and experience, who understood the challenges, opportunities and priorities in their communities.