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The Whole Story About Louise Werrington

Some of you might have read or heard about a text message I sent to the editor of a local paper, in which it appears that I offer to buy advertising in exchange for some information. This was published in the Letter to the Editor section of the paper. 

I would like to offer some clarity on the situation.

On reflection, the text message when read alone is poorly worded and it was a message sent in haste. It doesn’t read well – I can see that and I apologise for any confusion or concern raised about it. This wasn't an attack on journalism as I respect the independence of the newspapers, this was a question as to why the newspaper knowingly printed a letter from a person and contact details that I believe are not real.

In my career as an optometrist, a Councilor and now a state MP I hold myself to high standards of personal conduct and ethics, and I would never use any money – my own or tax payers – to buy influence or information nor would I spend it on any newspaper that ignores my calls for months. My spending is all recorded and scrutinised – as with all politicians – and this information is kept by the parliament. 

You may have heard me questioning whether or not ‘Louise Werrington’ was a real person. This is a point I kept referring to. Why does this matter? In the instance of a newspaper, letters can be published as ‘anonymous’ or ‘name withheld’. However, in the case of 'Louise Werrington', prior to this name being used to write a letter to the newspaper it had been used to make a statement in a Council Community Forum in reference to a Notice of Motion that I had put forward (see below for details). Woven through the criticism of the Nom were several personal attacks on me.  

I found this unusual. While community input is standard and welcomed on council policy, this was an unusual statement as it was personal in nature. Unlike a letter to the editor which can be anonymous, Council submissions must be identified to a resident, with a name and contact details supplied, to ensure that any submission for or against a council policy is coming from a genuine resident. When I questioned it, Council Governance were able to confirm that the mobile phone number supplied with the submission was a made up number and that the PO Box listed as the address was non-existent.  Council staff have been unable to speak to this 'Louise Werrington’ on the phone, or confirm that they are actually a resident of Wollondilly - or even a real individual. 

Submissions to council must be credited to a resident and not a pseudonym or anonymous. I am willing to take criticism and engage in discussions, but only with a real person and not someone hiding behind a fake name. This itself sets up a dangerous precedent where anyone can bully or attack someone else while hiding behind a computer screen and a fake name. It brings into question the integrity of Council proceedings if genuine resident concerns are muddied with questionable submissions from fake or anonymous sources. 

Which brings me to the text message I send the editor. The text message came off the back of several attempts to contact him to try to understand who was behind ‘Louise Werrington’.

I had been trying to establish if the ‘Louise Werrington’ from the council submission was a real person when the Letter to the Editor from this name was published. I made several attempts to contact the editor to discuss the matter, with no response. The only correspondence I had received from the paper was requests to buy Mothers’ Day advertising. Upon my last attempt to contact the editor I was advised to text him instead - which I did, covering both issues of inquiring about who the person was and the request for me to buy advertising. The text message was not worded well, which I can see now, and was not a reflection of my intent. 

There has been mention of ICAC, which I will cooperate with fully and transparently. As it has always been with me, the door to my office is always open and I invite anyone who has any concerns about this situation to get in touch to discuss it with me personally. Criticism is part of any job but especially that of a democratically elected official, and I am willing to engage in open and honest discussion of any issue with those who stand for their convictions openly and honestly themselves.

On 20 February 2024 I chaired the regular monthly Community Forum at Council. At the forum there were a number of community questions, 2 focused on the Notice of Motion I raised and one of these focused barely a few sentences on the motion, the rest was a personal attack.

The name 'Louise Werrington' that was submitted by the person was not known to me, strange after 20 years representing the area but not unusual to have new residents sometimes speak. The person that submitted however used a name, an address of a PO Box which is known to not be operated by that name, a phone number missing a digit and an unidentifiable generic email address.

Image: scan of the information provided by Council to register the question


The question has been removed from the public record and does now not appear in the video of the Community Forum published online. This is because the staff have said the Council has reason to believe that staff have been used for political purposes, reiterating my concern about the source of the question. Since this the staff have changed the Code of Meeting proceedure at the next meeting of Council to prevent the use of staff again in future.

As the information registered about 'Louise Werrington' was not complete I put in a freedom of information request, or a GIPA, to have the information that led to this question being brought to Council to be made public.

I have been in politics for two decades and have robust disagreements with many political representatives and political parties. Having an ongoing and incessant attack from a single Councillor over the years has resulted in myself and other Councillors at Wollondilly from being purposefully excluded. The below scans do not name the Councillor as the redacted copy was released to me. However I can confirm the blacked out name is the Deputy Mayor Councillor Matt Deeth, demonstrating his connection to 'Louise Werrington' and involvement in the statement.

In the below scans the staff member who asked the question contacted a staff member, Mr Eric Imbs, and asked about the question that was raised. According to his notes following the meeting Mr Imbs took a phone call from Councillor Deeth who said he was “falling on his sword” as he in error sent an email intended for Louise at the meeting but this went to Governance.

Image: transcript of the exchange between a council staff member and the Councillor who assisted 'Louise Werrington' 

The Community Forum and Councill staff should not be used for political purposes as they were that night. It is terrible no one stepped in and spoke out about the statement that was read uninterrupted by the staff. The same question was then printed in the local newspaper, the Wollondilly Express.

I reached out to the editor of the Express weeks ago and my office staff have tried to have an open relationship with the management there. Unfortunately they had not responded. I wanted to ask them what checks they did as the contact details supplied to Council are incorrect. I also wanted to ask if Councillor Deeth had too given assistance with the letter to the editor as he had said he had been helping with the question to the forum. 

Weeks turned to months and I have recently been contacted by the Express asking for advertising. I told the advertising rep at the Express I was trying to get in contact with the editor, she said that he was somewhere in the world and I needed to send a text message the next day at midday. I’ve heard nothing since.

I welcome the referral to ICAC, I have already sent it to Office of Local Government and I have been asking Council to refer this to ICAC as the actions of a Councillor in using the forum at any time is wrong, for political purposes is very disappointing and in an election year it is obviously campaigning. I have also sent the full information to ICAC today, including all correspondence with the Express not just the one message they chose to print and look forward to their findings. I also look forward to the finalisation of the investigation that Council is doing into this matter, as it is continuing to take so long I have referred the matter to the Minister for Local Government and have asked for an independent investigation into the matter and the particular protection of Councillor Deeth by the constant delays.

I thank the women from both political parties that have reached out to me with their support since this has come out and their encouragement to continue to fight hard for my community here in Wollondilly.