David Rowe has taken Touie Smith Senior to the Supreme Court for defamation

DEFENDANT: Touie Smith Senior with wife Denise in front of the Memorial Hall this year.
DEFENDANT: Touie Smith Senior with wife Denise in front of the Memorial Hall this year.

A lawsuit has been filed against Yass resident Touie Smith Senior by the Yass Valley Council’s general manager, David Rowe.

The lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Court, claims Mr Smith defamed Mr Rowe in two publications. Mr Rowe is pursuing the case in his private capacity. 

Mr Rowe complained Mr Smith defamed him in a letter published December 8, 2014, which was sent to each member of the Yass Council, members of the Yass community and the Yass Tribune.

He claimed the letter stated: “General managers not letting process get in the way of a parking fine reversal for a fellow General Manager. Surely an independent infringement review board/process would be a part of any council that wants to present itself as fair.

“Councillors must see the history of incompetence. All the issues that drove Denise and I, pre-Deed, were solvable if the General Manager was on his game. All park-n-ride, dirty water, Hume Park, Hewatts dumping, Crisps, need I go on, are all on his watch and all solvable without subjecting you, me and everyone else to the weekly soap opera.”

PLAINTIFF: Yass Valley Council general manager David Rowe.

PLAINTIFF: Yass Valley Council general manager David Rowe.

According to the most recent Statement of Claim, Mr Rowe says this suggested he acted corruptly and in an unfair manner by reversing a parking fine for a fellow General Manager. 

He said this was false and defamatory.

Mr Rowe was also suing over a publication dated January 1, 2015, titled ‘Council can’t be trusted with the truth, our money or our future’. 

The second publication states: “I have no doubt that the General Manager, as supported by the mayor and the gaggle, will find some way to remind me of my place as they have done before and penalise me by such things as limiting council services, interrupting my business interests, interfering with my superfund and telling me I can’t speak.”

“If council won’t honour words like ‘council commits to ensuring that all customers of council will be treated fairly and impartially in their dealings with council and to considering all matters based on the merits of the specific matter’, then how do we trust them. 

“Council’s closure of the Crisp Galleries is a standout and all done within a week of settling us. Might as well forget any agreement legal or not as council does whatever it feels like while the majority of councillors stand by.”

The second publication was sent to each member of the Yass Council, to at least 3000 members of the Yass community and the Yass Tribune.

Mr Rowe complained this suggested he was capable of acting in a vengeful manner towards Mr Smith – in retribution for the defendant raising complaints or issues – by limiting council services, interrupting his business interests, interfering with his superfund and preventing him from raising issues. Mr Rowe said these meanings were false and defamatory.

Mr Rowe’s Statement of Claim said he was greatly injured in his credit and reputation by both publications.

Mr Smith responded with a very wide-ranging defence, denying that the publications gave rise to the imputations pleaded. He said that if the imputations were conveyed, they were true, and also pleaded the defence of honest opinion.  

The matter came before the Supreme Court in Sydney on Monday, October 10 and has been set down for hearing on May 1, 2017.