Latrobe City Council has labelled its inclusion in a discrimination complaint against controversial councillor Christine Sindt as inappropriate and wrong.
The Council’s asked anti-discrimination campaigner Garry Burns to withdraw his complaint against it, over social media comments made by Ms Sindt.
Mr Burns included the Council as a respondent in a complaint he filed with the New South Wales Anti-Discrimination Board.
Latrobe Chief Executive Gary Van Driel has asked Mr Burns to leave the shire out of it, because the comments aren’t reflective of council’s views.
“I assure you that [we] condemn views such as those contained in the post,and the content does not reflect the views of Council as a whole,” Mr Van Driel wrote in a letter received by Mr Burns yesterday.
“While Cr Sindt’s Facebook page referred to her position as a Councillor, the page was not established by Council. Nor did Council have direct access or control over the content posted.”
But Mr Burns has refused to back down from his complaint that includes the Council.
“If these statements were published under her personal account, different story,” he said.
“Before her page was removed, there was council issues on there. You can’t pick and choose when she represents council.”
Mr Burns took the letter as a polite threat to back off.
“They’re concerned it’ll impact them, but they need to understand it’s a very serious matter.”
The controversial south-east Victorian based councillor criticised federal MP Darren Chester after he announced his support of same-sex marriage.
Lawyers for Mr Chester have asked Cr Sindt to apologise and retract what they describe as divisive, offensive and defamatory comments.
A vilification complaint has also been lodged against Cr Sindt by a New South Wales anti-discrimination campaigner.
A panel will decide if Cr Sindt has breached the councillor code of conduct by posting anti-Islamic material on Facebook.
She said threats from lawyers would not force her to censor her public comments.
“Same-sex marriage has a lot of, there’s a lot of robust debate around same-sex marriage and this morning I received some private and confidential correspondence from a lawyer,” she said.
“Will I think about what I say and do to be sure that the thought police are happy with it?
“I do not comply with the thought police. I am a free-thinking person.”
Sindt agrees to be more ‘inclusive’
Latrobe City Councillor Christine Sindt says discussions with members of the community have made her aware her Facebook posts opposing same sex marriage “may have triggered intense emotion” for people.
“In relation to same sex marriage, I have met with members of the community, and have become aware that my Facebook posts opposing same sex marriage may have triggered intense emotion, based on their own personal experiences,” Cr Sindt told The Express in a statement on Friday.
“Discussions are continuing, for which there are clearly no immediate short-term solutions.
“We have agreed that same sex marriage is not the solution to far deeper social problems.”
Cr Sindt said she had “agreed to disagree” with people on the issue of same sex marriage, and “agreed that we need to be an inclusive, supportive Latrobe City community”.
Her controversial Facebook comments drew interstate ire last week, with an outspoken, Sydney-based gay rights activist lodging a formal complaint with the Anti-Discrimination Board of New South Wales.
Garry Burns has alleged an 11 June statement on Cr Sindt’s offcial councillor Facebook page incited hatred against homosexual men.
The contents of the Facebook post cannot be reported for legal reasons.
Mr Burns said he believed Cr Sindt’s statement was unlawful because it “has a capacity or effect of inciting hatred towards, or serious contempt or serious ridicule of homosexual men on the grounds of their homosexuality”.
“People in high office have responsibility, they’re people in powerful positions and they should understand the impact of their statement particularly on gay and lesbian teenagers, because these kinds of statements do cause harm,” he said.
Cr Sindt’s Facebook post included a personal attack on Member for Gippsland Darren Chester after he declared he would support legislation to legalise same-sex marriage.
A lawyer for Mr Chester sent a letter to Cr Sindt requesting she retract the statement and unreservedly apologise.
From Thursday morning, Cr Sindt’s councillor Facebook page appeared to have been taken down.
Cr Sindt said she had not yet received any legal correspondence about her councillor Facebook page and she had voluntarily deactivated it.
She said she did not know Garry Burns.
“I have met with members of the local community and those whom I have met do not appear to be as concerned as possibly Mr Burns may be and I look forward to receiving his correspondence,” Cr Sindt said.