Glenelg mayor Scott Martin to apologise for Gilbert Wilson Facebook comment

A regional Victorian mayor has been ordered to apologise to a council colleague after he wrote a lengthy Facebook post containing a “highly personal” comment about a bathrobe worn in a confidential zoom meeting. 

In the post to a community Facebook page in July 2022, Glenelg Shire councillor Scott Martin, who was deputy mayor at the time, wrote about his disagreement with a council vote about the rates system.

Cr Martin was voted in as mayor of the shire in the December local government election.

“It is disappointing to see all councillors didn’t take the opportunity to provide a clear voice to ratepayers on how the rates system works although I wasn’t surprised as one councillor has been rocking up to meetings in a bathrobe of late,” he wrote.

Councillor Gilbert Wilson, one of two councillors later named in the post, lodged the complaint against Cr Martin, saying he had not treated him with “dignity, fairness or objectivity”. 

The former federal Labor candidate told an arbitration process he had worn the robe while ill on a video call. 

“He had been ill and was required to attend a confidential council meeting by Zoom,” the arbiter’s report reads. 

“To get a good digital connection, he had to go to his garage and wore his bathrobe, as it was very cold.” 

A photo of Glenelg Shire's council building
Cr Martin’s post came after a council vote on the rates and valuation system.(Supplied)

Arbiter Louise Hill conducted a hearing between the councillors on December 12 and ultimately found Cr Martin had broken the councillor code of conduct. 

“The statement about the bathrobe ‘one councillor has been rocking up to council meetings in a bathrobe of late’ is highly personal,” she said.

“Personal attacks are not consistent with the Standard of Conduct.”

Mayor backs comments

Cr Martin said he stood by all of his comments. 

“They are my comments and I am happy to stand by them,” he said. 

A smiling man in  a suit and tie
Scott Martin says he will abide by the decision.(Supplied: Glenelg Shire Council)

He said he wasn’t told about the issue until arbitration was organised. 

But he said he would follow the arbiter’s directions and apologise. 

“Whether I think the finding is right or not is irrelevant, I will always abide by the umpire’s decision,” he said.

Cr Gilbert said he was sick with the flu at the time.

He said he was disappointed he couldn’t comment on the misconduct finding due to the council’s media policy.

Cost to ratepayers unknown

A council spokesperson said it was not yet known how much the arbitration process would cost ratepayers, as they had not received the bill from Ms Hill. 

“The cost from the arbiter for this application has not yet been received,” they said. 

When asked whether other avenues to resolve the conflict were explored, the spokesperson said it was not appropriate to comment. 

“It is not appropriate to discuss the specifics of the process undertaken outside of what is provided in the arbiter determination and statement of reasons,” they said. 

In her report, arbiter Ms Hill lamented the use of ratepayer funds to resolve the conflict. 

“It is regrettable that the arbitration process is being used in this manner and that councillors are reluctant to discuss their differences and concerns directly with one another.”

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