A PUBLIC meeting held to showcase local government candidates raised questions about one candidate’s past and separate claims of council bullying.
The Tenterfield Ratepayers’ Association hosted a “meet the candidates” evening on Sunday night, with the 21 local government candidates invited to speak for three minutes and answer questions.
But it was the absence of Ward B candidate Graham Foan that raised the most heated questions.
“Graham Foan goes around wearing medals he hasn’t earned,” one member of the audience shouted.
“He wanders around with medals he hasn’t earned. He’s a Walter Mitty.”
Ward C candidate Bob South said he had “done some research” on the Australian and New Zealand Military Imposters (ANZMI) website that features Mr Foan.
“The people who run it and promote it keep themselves quiet,” he said.
A member of the audience asked Mr South if he was “backing” Mr Foan.
“I’m not backing Mr Foan,” Mr South said. “I just wanted to say people should be very, very careful when they use stuff from that particular website. I’m just saying be careful.”
Meeting chair Peter Robinson said he had hoped Mr Foan would be at the meeting to defend himself.
A member of the audience shouted that the ANZMI website showed Mr Foan had forged documents and that he claimed to be an ex-policeman from Queensland, but had never been in the police force. The audience member also said Mr Foan had been asked to resign from the RSL by the RSL state president.
“There is something in question here which I was hoping we could clear up,” Mr Robinson replied before calling the meeting to order.
Mr Foan said this week he felt no need to respond to “personal attacks”.
“Some of these people are not squeaky clean,” he said. “If anybody has a personal problem with me, please come and see me and talk to me and have a cup of tea.”
Mr Foan said there was “no reason at all” he should not be seeking a place on council.
He said he had not attended the meeting because he knew it would become an “all-in brawl”.
He also supported a statement by Ward B candidate Blair Maxwell read out at the meeting explaining Mr Maxwell’s absence.
The statement said “many candidates” had decided not to attend the meeting.
“Names will not be mentioned, but our absence is in protest to dirty campaign tactics against old and new candidates leading up to this election,” the statement said.
“… Our absence from this meeting shows our unity and desire to raise standards, not lower ourselves to the schoolyard antics being perpetrated.
“… We will not be drawn into this behavior and hope our united stance will indicate to you that if elected we will move our shire forward in stature, ethics and community spirit. I myself would not have believed the level of deceit and the misinformation some people will go to for a local election.”
Current councillor and Ward C candidate Brian Murray, who was last to speak at the meeting, also caused a stir with an account of threatening behaviour by two fellow councillors at his second council meeting.
He said the councillors had taken him aside to warn him to vote as they did.
Cr Murray also said he had been advised if one group of candidates were elected, current general manager Lotta Jackson would be told to move on, and council would face amalgamation within eight months.
Six candidates did not attend the meeting – Mr Foan, Mr Maxwell and current councillor Lawrie West, with apologies received from candidates Roxanne Bancroft-Stuart, Michael Petrie and Alan Horneman.
The remaining 15 candidates had three minutes to have their say, and extra time to answer questions.
The audience of more than 80 people raised questions about a large range of issues including employment, tourism, roads, the Tenterfield bypass and the hospital.