SHADES of ''it's the vibe'' were repeated in the Federal Magistrates Court in a dispute between the chief executive of a shire council who was suffering from hepatitis C and a councillor who spread the news.
Kelvin Matthews sued Timothy Hargreaves for unlawful discrimination on the basis of his disability, after the Shark Bay councillor disseminated the fact of his disease to colleagues, residents and media in Western Australia.
Mr Hargreaves emailed his other councillors in March 2008 in capital letters, beneath the heading ''Confidential'': ''I have been given to understand from a seemingly reliable source that Mr Matthews has Hepatitis C.
''This information is not given to you because of a perceived personality problem as you so often suggest between Mr Matthews and myself but as a duty of care responsibility. I don't know sufficient [sic] of the medical prognosis of the various hepatitis conditions but I do know it comes under the heading of contagious diseases.''
The email was one in a string of complaints that Mr Hargreaves made about Mr Matthews between 2008 and his resignation in 2010.
One such email, to the council president, said: ''I have noticed that of late when Mr Matthews has addressed me he has taken to a strange contortioning of his facial muscles and attempts at much winking … In the army we called this sort of behaviour insubordination. [The Bible] warns of a man '… winking with eyes to devise froward things, his lips bringing wickedness to pass'.''
In his defence, Mr Hargreaves said it gave him no joy to share with the community at large that Mr Matthews suffered from a contagious disease, but he had a duty as he had been elected on an anti-corruption ticket.
It behoved him to point out Mr Matthews shared eating and drinking utensils with other staff members. Asked whether he would apologise to Mr Matthews, he said he would, provided no compensation was sought.
He added: ''Mr Matthews conceded he had his own mug … I never noticed him having his own mug, but at least that is an acknowledgement that he knew of the potential for hepatitis being transmitted to others.''
The federal magistrate Toni Lucev said Mr Hargreaves had also raised in his defence ''some form of constitutional issue''. ''The submissions on this issue are nigh on incomprehensible, and it was never apparent to the court precisely what this issue was.''
She said she would have ruled Mr Hargreaves had discriminated against Mr Matthews, but nevertheless dismissed the application as the council and Mr Matthews had already signed a deed of agreement which prevented him from seeking further redress.