Jailed: Milvan Muto
A Shepparton councillor involved in a blackmail scandal has been jailed for eight months.
Milvan Muto tried to use secretly recorded conversations with other councillors to convince a senior council officer to drop a misconduct claim against him.
County Court judge Frank Gucciardo said Muto's offending had struck at the heart of the proper administration of justice.
Judge Gucciardo said such an offence by a person holding public office was an abuse of trust and "strikes at the integrity of public administration".
The public's confidence in the justice system would be lost unless it was made clear that anyone committing such an offence had to be jailed, the judge said on Thursday.
Muto, 54, a father of two who has lived his entire life in Shepparton, had been found guilty by a jury in March of attempting to pervert the course of justice.
Judge Gucciardo said Muto told the council's then acting chief executive Julie Salomon on July 24, 2012, that he had something she should to listen to before the pair went to his car and he played her a CD of a conversation between then councillor Cherie Crawford and councillor Jenny Houlihan.
Ms Salomon was upset at the disparaging remarks made about her during the councillors' conversation.
Muto told Ms Salomon he had many more hours of similar recorded conversations and that he planned to release them on the website called "SheppiLeaks" unless she agreed to withdraw a gross misconduct complaint she had lodged against him in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Ms Salomon had complained to VCAT that Muto had abused her over the phone.
Judge Gucciardo described Muto's evidence during his trial, where he denied playing the CD to Ms Salomon, asking her to withdraw her complaint or mentioning SheppiLeaks, as "unimpressive".
The judge said there was little doubt Muto's time on the council since he was elected in 2008 had been turbulent and divisive.
He said that Muto's approach as a councillor was both combative and crusading, and that he had gathered a group of supporters in Shepparton who believed in him.
But Judge Gucciardo said Muto's conduct in playing the CD to Ms Salomon in his car had been pre-meditated and was not a "spur of the moment lapse".
Ms Salomon's victim impact statement revealed she had experienced emotional distress because of Muto, who appeared to be a well-intentioned person but was arrogant and obstinate in his pursuit of good governance, the judge said.
Judge Gucciardo said it was a pity Muto had jeopardised his standing in the community by committing an offence contrary to the principles he claimed to aspire to.
On August 6, 2012, police executed a search warrant at Muto's home and found two envelopes of CDs in a car.
When asked where the CDs came from, Muto said he found them in his letterbox during the previous three months.
During his plea hearing after the jury had found him guilty, Muto's defence lawyer claimed he was suffering from a psychiatric condition at the time of the offence and should not be held morally culpable for his actions.
After being jailed for eight months, Muto stood in the dock and hugged his wife and two children before being led away.