Councillor in strife over stalking accusation
A councillor who wrongly accused an elderly resident of stalking her has been found guilty of multiple code of conduct breaches.
Mount Barker District Council deputy mayor Samantha Jones is expected to be asked to write an apology to retired software company owner Brian Calvert at a special meeting on Thursday night.
Mr Calvert, 80, lodged a formal complaint after Cr Jones sent an email about him to other elected members and council staff last November following various social media exchanges between the pair.
One of the exchanges included Cr Jones saying on Facebook in June last year that Mr Calvert, a vocal critic of the council, had posted comments "to ignite hate and fury towards council staff and councillors".
Mr Calvert complained about the post, resulting in a public apology from Cr Jones.
The dispute between the pair flared again when Mr Calvert sent a lengthy email to the council last November protesting against its handling of the removal of several large gum trees.
Cr Jones told the elected members to respond to Mr Calvert "with caution" as she had been the "recipient of relentless attempts at intimidation and threats of code of conduct complaints".
She then claimed she was "followed home by a car with three older gentlemen (one who I believe was Mr Calvert) and had 'surveillance' at the front of my house".
Mr Calvert, who was told about the email by two other councillors, complained to the council before asking the Local Government Governance Panel to investigate.
Cr Jones responded by lodging a code of complaint against one of the councillors who alerted Mr Calvert to her email, David Leach.
The panel conducted two separate investigations - costing a total of $21,912 - which found both Cr Jones and Cr Leach had breached the council's code of conduct.
In a 46-page report into Mr Calvert's complaint, it said Cr Jones' claim linking him "with the car and its alleged sinister actions was reckless and inappropriate.
"There was no basis to insinuate that Mr Calvert was or may have been part of a group of men she believed conducted surveillance of her home," it said.
Mr Calvert said he had spent thousands of dollars on legal fees trying to get a public apology from Cr Jones over the false allegation.
"What I was falsely accused of was stalking, implying that I engaged in a criminal offence with a three-year jail sentence," he said.
"My wife and myself are in our eighties. We don't deserve to be treated like this."
Mr Calvert said the council should have asked Cr Jones to apologise, rather than having to refer his complaint to the Local Government Governance Panel.
"The councillor's failure to fix the problem by voluntarily apologising has unnecessarily cost ratepayers thousands of dollars," he said.
Mr Calvert said he had no idea why Cr Jones thought he had followed her home.
"There wasn't any rego of the car, no photo, no report to the police and, most of all, she has no idea what I look like," he said
"I also have ATM receipts and witness statements which show I was nowhere near the location when she said I was."
Mr Calvert said his relationship with Cr Jones had been strained since he complained about her Facebook post which said he was attempting to "ignite hate".
"I have never met her, I don't know her," he said.
"I can only judge her on her behaviour which, to me, has been done to damage me.
"I find it disgraceful, especially for someone in public office."
The council - including chief executive Andrew Stuart, Mayor Ann Ferguson and Cr Jones - declined to comment before the meeting on Thursday.
Originally published as Councillor in strife over stalking accusation