Secret bill for Port legal case
THE legal costs of a defamation case against former Port Adelaide Enfield Mayor Gary Johanson were kept secret by the council for nearly four years.
A confidential report from January 2015, which councillors voted to suppress, contained details of legal costs associated with a case brought against Mr Johanson by resident Graham Howard.
The document was released late last year due to a change of mayor. The council spent $42,768.25 to defend Mr Johanson against a claim he had suggested Mr Howard was a man of “questionable repute” during a council meeting in December 2012.
The case took a year to get to the Port Adelaide Magistrates Court, where Mr Howard sought $25,000 in damages.
The court recommended the two men undergo me- diation and Mr Howard dropped the case in late 2014.
Under the terms of the confidentiality order created by the council, the legal costs and any other details relating to the case had to be kept secret until Mr Johanson left office.
Mr Johanson said he would have preferred the costs to be “out in the open” but he was advised by the council that it “should be kept confidential”.
“I’ve told the media time and again when we’ve stuffed up as a council,” he said. “I believe that it keeps you in touch with your community more.”
He said it was “certainly not” fair ratepayers had to stump up the legal bill but the only way to have avoided it would have been to “admit something we didn’t do”.
A council spokeswoman said it was kept confidential because it contained legal advice and material relating to the “personal affairs” of Mr Johanson. Mr Howard could not be contacted.