Paper bag cartoon could amount to defamation Cr warns
ONE of the Councillors depicted carrying a brown paper bag in a cartoon by George Partos, a vocal critic of the Cultural and Civic Space, has sent him a strong warning his drawing could amount to defamation.
The cartoon was drawn in an apparent political protest aimed at Cr Sally Townley and three others who voted to support the building on Gordon Street which will house a new art gallery, museum and Council offices.
She, along with Mayor Denise Knight and Crs Michael Adendorff and George Cecato, were depicted in the cartoon holding brown paper bags above a likeness of the Cultural and Civic Space.
The development application for the building, estimated to cost $76.5m, was approved by the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment last week.
The cartoon, shared on a local 'news and views' Facebook page, has not been taken lightly by Cr Townley.
"As one of the subjects in your 'cartoon', clearly identifiable and shown holding a brown paper bag, I can only assume you are publicly accusing me of taking bribes or somehow engaging in corrupt behaviour," she responded.
Mr Partos stands by the cartoon as political commentary and says the paper bags are simply a metaphor for the actions of "the four baddies" as he describes them.
"I don't indicate what's in the bag but it's definitely not the wishes of the majority of the people who are against this project."
He says he is "not a big Facebook operator" but won't be taking the cartoons down.
Last month Mr Partos burnt his rates notice in protest against the project.
But Cr Townley is not backing down and issued a stern warning to Mr Partos.
"May I remind you that to publicly denounce someone in an untrue manner is defamation. If you think I am taking bribes, please have a discussion with the police and present your evidence."
Although Mr Partos stands by his cartoons - a second one depicting the Mayor and general Manager Steve McGrath has also been posted on social media - he has withdrawn his call for protesters to come to this week's Council meeting brandishing paper bags.
"I did think about it and thought we should maintain a Christmas spirit and be positive so we will be having a Christmas gathering with a positive feel to it if people want to drop by."
Mr Partos has been accused of being in the same camp on the issue as Andrew Fraser, the former Nationals Member for Coffs Harbour who has been a vocal critic of the project.
He denies this claim.
"I don't have anything to do with Andrew Fraser whatsoever. I haven't seen him for six months or something - I can't recall when.
"I was a part of Citizens Voice which Andrew was involved in but I have withdrawn from that group."
Mr Partos supports the gallery and museum aspects of the building but not the inclusion of Council offices.
"I am an artist, I love my culture."