TOWONG’S mayor sent a photo of two bare-bummed men decorating a Christmas tree to a ratepayer as a “joke”.
Aaron Scales is being scrutinised over the image and related text – “Here’s a new Christmas wish for you” – sent to Walwa gallery owner Steve Caldwell in December.
“It was a joke really, a Merry Christmas joke,” Cr Scales said.
“It was not anything malicious.
“I had a female friend send it to me as a joke.”
But Mr Caldwell said he was “disgusted” and while he texted back to Cr Scales “Ho, Ho you naughty boy” and then engaged in lewd banter he felt the original message was inappropriate.
“That’s not the sort of behaviour and conduct you expect from councillors,” Mr Caldwell said.
“He has really overstepped the mark.
Mr Caldwell has complained to the Victorian Ombudsman, with an investigation officer replying that the matter was being assessed.
He also mentioned the text in a letter to Victorian premier Daniel Andrews.
“This sort of behaviour is disgusting and highly inappropriate,” Mr Caldwell told him.
“I have tried to laugh it off, but I find it all tasteless and Mayor Aaron Scales should resign or be sacked.”
Mr Caldwell has been labelled a vexatious complainant to Towong Council, but Cr Scales believed he was humouring him with his Christmas greeting which preceded him sending an official Happy Holidays message from the shire.
”I thought he would take it in the right way,” he said.
“Steve and I have had a good relationship, I was one of the few councillors that listened to his complaints and got them dealt with.”
Asked how he thought ratepayers would view his text, Cr Scales said “they probably won’t take it well”.
Following The Border Mail’s questions, Cr Scales issued a media release which stated that he “apologised unreservedly to Mr Caldwell and any members of the community who were offended by his lapse in judgement”.
A formal letter of apology will be sent to Mr Caldwell.
Mr Caldwell, 65, who continued to text concerns to the mayor until autumn, described the naked image as an “ace up my sleeve” to have over the council.
He said he not raised the racy communication with council chief executive Juliana Phelps but had spoken to Cr Scales’ predecessor as mayor Cr David Wortmann about the matter.
Cr Wortmann said he could recall Mr Caldwell talking of improper contact from Cr Scales, but he said images were not discussed.
He said he would not have indulged in such behaviour as mayor, but if the matter was to be raised in council now it would have to be through Ms Phelps.