David Penman has appeared in Ballarat Magistrates’ Court after sending allegedly threatening messages to a Shire Councillor according to an article in The Age published August 12.

Mr Penman operates a range of accommodation services in Daylesford and Hepburn Springs. He has been highly critical of Council, including Councillors and Council staff for their actions in relation to a number of planning matters and permit applications. This includes a protracted dispute about Council’s refusal to grant a permit for a glamping development in Charlie’s Road, Hepburn Springs.

Mr Penman has made a number of statements on social media and in widely distributed emails that allege corruption by Councillors and Council staff.

Council has repeatedly called on Mr Penman to back up his claims with little result. In a recent social media post Mr Penman offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who could provide evidence to support his assertions.

The Local Government Inspectorate has recently investigated these matters independently and ruled that they are unsubstantiated and misconceived.

Council instructed their lawyers to follow up on concerns raised with Mr Penman in January and requested that Mr Penman delete the alleged defamatory material, issue an unqualified retraction, publish an apology and undertake to cease any further defamatory publication.

In a statement, Hepburn Shire Mayor, Cr Brian Hood, said “Some of the unfounded allegations are clearly defamatory to individuals and malicious in nature. Those matters are subject to ongoing legal processes, so no further comment will be made on them at this time.”

Mr Penman responded with a series of emails sent to the Premier, the Ombudsman, IBAC, the Local Government Inspectorate and others including The Wombat Post, alleging corruption and calling for the Council to be dismissed and replaced by administrators for wasting rate payers money on defamation actions.

Victorian law prevents government bodies, including local councils, from suing for defamation in relation to statements that comment on the way they carry out their public functions. But individual Councillors and Council Officers are permitted to sue if statements refer to them personally.

Cr Hood defended the Council’s response because of their responsibility to provide a safe working environment. “Council is mindful of its obligations to provide a safe workplace for all employees and Councillors and will take all available steps to do so,” said Cr Hood.

Mr Penman has appeared in court a number of times recently in relation to threatening behaviour. In May last year he appeared in Moorabbin Magistrates’ Court and was fined $2,500 after pleading guilty to harassment after sending threatening emails to a woman who left a negative review about the Clifftop accommodation. In February, he was placed on a diversion order by Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after sending threatening emails to another former guest.