Grave error

Fresh Adelaide Hills Councillor Leith Mudge has learned the power of social media the hard way.
Within days of posting online what he probably believed to be a popular opinion, he’s found himself publicly disgraced, leading him to withdraw his rash statements and voluntarily apologise – not only online – but also at a public council meeting.
And his actions could still have further ramifications, if he is found to have breached the Councillor Code of Conduct, which says that Councillors must “act in a reasonable, just, respectful and non-discriminatory way when dealing with people; show respect for others if making comments publicly; and ensure that personal comments … clearly indicate that it is a private view”.
Cr Mudge is entitled to his personal opinions – including whether or not to patronise businesses that also offer services to controversial Senators.
However, it seems that he doesn’t fully understand the ramifications of calling for a public boycott of a local business.
Business owners risk a lot to establish and grow their enterprises.
By encouraging a local boycott Cr Mudge could have harmed not just the owners, but the dozens of local staff they employ as well as other local producers and suppliers.
As Cr Mudge has since acknowledged he should have first approached the business privately, offering it a right of reply before he made his concerns public.
Signing off the public letter as an Adelaide Hills Councillor and posting it on a personal Facebook page that he uses to promote himself as a Councillor further added to the controversy.
It’s dragged the council into the fray and could have been seen as an attempt to use his position to intimidate or influence the business.
To Cr Mudge’s credit, he removed the post fairly promptly after the backlash became obvious and has since issued an apology and encouraged the community to support the Old Mill.
But while his words can be removed from social media, they can’t as easily be removed from public memory.
They are certain to outlive the post and have longer lasting consequences – possibly for the Old Mill – but almost definitely for him.

For the full report, see the print issue of The Courier.