Inner West councillor Julie Passas has been fined $2500 over allegedly verbally abusing a neighbour who displayed a rainbow flag after the postal survey on marriage equality.
Passas, a Liberal councillor for the Ashfield – Djarrawunang (Magpie) ward and a former Deputy Mayor of the council, has been found to have vilified neighbour Daniel Comensoli on the basis of his sexuality, the ABC reported.
One of the comments was reported as having been made while Ashfield police were at the building to hear Comensoli’s complaint.
Comensoli said that she also told him that he shouldn’t be allowed to marry “until you could breastfeed and have children”.
He claimed that Passas was overheard telling a neighbour that the apartment’s owners should be alerted that its tenants were “disgusting people” the following day, and that Passas had begun lobbying other tenants to have Comensoli evicted.
Passas told the tribunal that Comensoli had fabricated the claim and “turned it into a gay issue” when she claimed her issue with the flag revolved around strata rules for hanging objects from balconies.
When cross-examined, Passas said that the rainbow flag was “against what I believe in” and that it was “offensive…because of what it stands for”.
Comensoli shared details of the incident on Facebook at the time, calling the incident “distressing”.
On Monday, the tribunal upheld Comensoli’s claim of “unlawful homosexual vilification” against him.
Passas was ordered to pay the $2500 fine – less than the $10000 Comensoli sought from the tribunal.
The former Deputy Mayor will also be required to publish a formal apology in the Inner West Courier stating that on “the day of the historic ‘Yes vote’ … I publicly yelled abuse at Mr Comensoli, which has been determined by the NSW Civil and Administration Tribunal to amount to homosexual vilification”.
The Inner West Council had previously held an internal investigation and found that Passas had been acting as a private citizen and had therefore not breached their Code of Conduct.
Passas had previously been found of breaching the Code in council meetings between 2013 and 2015, with the councillor ejected from meetings and disqualification from holding public office for three months.
The LGBTI Legal Service found that over 220 instances of hate speech occurred during the postal survey period in 2017.