JULIAN FIDGE: It's time to say sorry

Julian Fidge

Julian Fidge

FORMER Wangaratta councillor Julian Fidge has re-ignited events surrounding the council’s sacking last year by initiating defamation action in the Wangaratta Magistrates Court.

Dr Fidge yesterday lodged a statement of claim against Wangaratta Council outlining complaints made against former council colleagues and senior staff members between his election to council in October 2012 to its dismissal less than 12 months later.

Among those named in the documents are former council chief executive Doug Sharp and former councillors Don Joyce, Tammy Atkins and Lisa McInerney.

Dr Fidge is seeking an apology and correction of comments made against him contained in official council records.

He claims he has lost more than $80,000 in councillor allowances as a result of the council sacking and has already incurred $15,000 in legal costs pertaining to the defamation action.

A settlement offer involving the council paying $100,000 and covering Dr Fidge’s legal costs are contained within the defamation complaint.

Dr Fidge said last night he hoped the matter could be resolved without the need for a hearing.

“It’s a simple matter that can be dealt with in Wangaratta and the record can be corrected,” he said.

Wangaratta Council declined to comment last night on the court action.

It comes during the same week there was confirmation the costs of last year’s council governance crisis had hit the $2 million mark.

Dr Fidge said he instigated the court action following the response he received from the council to a concerns notice — a notice in writing of what he considered to be the relevant defamatory material — which was lodged in March.

“The tone and content of the response from (council) was dismissive to the point of rudeness,” the statement of claim said.

Dr Fidge has claimed he has suffered “hurt and embarrassment from the repeated and widespread defamatory allegations made to his patients, friends and neighbours by the defendant in a small country town”.

He added he had been blamed for the council’s dismissal because of the defamatory allegations made by the council.

Dr Fidge has also claimed he was unfairly treated in his dealings in relation to planning matters he is involved in, since last year’s sacking.

Personal congratulatory letters sent to Dr Fidge, former mayor Rozi Parisotto and former councillors Noel Amery and Paul O’Brien by former member for Indi Sophie Mirabella after the October 2012 election are also mentioned in the statement of claim.

They were released through a Freedom of Information request.

The council has 21 days to notify the court if it intends to defend the complaints.