THE split in Gympie Regional Council over the proposed flood levee widened yesterday when anti-levee councillor Ian Petersen demanded a public apology from Deputy Mayor Tony Perrett for things that were said during a debate on the subject three weeks ago.
Cr Petersen threatened to lodge a formal complaint against Cr Perrett if he did not provide evidence to support a comment he made during the debate, or publish a written retraction and apology in The Gympie Times.
Last month, Cr Petersen asked the council to reverse its decision to pursue State and Federal Government money to build a $23.5 million flood wall across the touch football fields at Albert Park.
During the ensuing debate each councillor spoke about the levee and about Cr Petersen's motion, which was ultimately voted down.
A clearly frustrated Cr Perrett said at the time that some of the assertions made about the cost of the levee by Cr Petersen were "absolutely absurd" if not "absolute lies".
It is these words that have incensed Cr Petersen.
"I wish to make a statement in relation to Cr Perrett's allegation at the general meeting on 21st August that I have made statements quote 'which are absolutely absurd if not absolute lies' unquote," he said yesterday.
"His comment was subsequently reported in The Gympie Times. I have received advice that this statement is potentially defamatory and in breach of the Councillor Code of Conduct.
"I wish to provide three options for Cr Perrett:
"1. He provide evidence to support his allegations.
"2. In the absence of such evidence he retract the statement and publish an apology in the newspaper where his comment was reported.
"3. He may do nothing - in which case I give notice that after seven clear days I will lodge a formal complaint with the chief executive officer of the Department of Local Government as required under the Councillor Code of Conduct provisions."
Cr Perrett yesterday categorically denied calling Cr Petersen a liar, and said he been speaking "off the cuff" at that meeting concerning claims made to the media about the ongoing cost of the levee.
The true cost was about a 10th of what was being claimed, Cr Perrett said.
He questioned why Cr Petersen had not, at any point during that debate, called a point of order against him if his words had indeed breached the Code of Conduct.
Cr Petersen had used his right to reply to sum up his argument, but had not called a point of order, Cr Perrett said.
"Mr Mayor, I am happy to confirm for Cr Petersen that I did not call him a liar.
"Yes, I did use the word 'lie' while I was speaking against the motion, but I categorically deny using it against Cr Petersen.
"The context in which I used the comment was in response to public suggestions put forward by some, who do not support the motion which council passed at its ordinary meeting on the 31st July, to proceed with the flood mitigation options for the Gympie region."