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Councillor censured over online post

Callum HunterSouth Western Times

Capel shire councillor Michael Southwell has vowed to continue to keep the community informed about council activity despite being censured by the local government standards panel.

Cr Southwell was censured earlier this week for a Facebook post published on June 29 last year in relation to a council meeting earlier that week, breaching regulation 7(1)(b) of the local government code of conduct.

“I’m OK with it and will take it on the chin,” he said.

“All the comments I have made were with the intention of properly informing the ratepayers and residents of the district and fulfilling my responsibilities as a councillor, which is to keep people informed as to what’s really going on and not just what they might read in a fluffy advertisement.”

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The breaches came in the form of disparaging remarks and comments made in Cr Southwell’s Facebook post, including allegations of “arrogance and bullying, breaching confidentiality, threatening and forcing residents to act in a certain way, censorship and affecting the impartiality of council decisions.”

The panel concluded Cr Southwell acted improperly and mentioned in its reasoning that the community looked to councillors to provide leadership and guidance and he used his position as a councillor to welcome the new chief executive before making the allegations.

The panel also found he “intended to cause detriment to the former shire chief and the shire by publishing the post”.

“What I strive to do ... is to tell people the truth about what is really happening and things that might concern them, but in doing that, sometimes telling the truth causes detriment,” Cr Southwell said.

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