The City of Greater Bendigo is locked in a legal wrangle with a current councillor, whom it believes owes the city thousands of dollars in costs from legal challenges to stop the city’s first mosque.
High Court documents reveal the council last month lodged a bill of costs valued at $32,549, which the city is looking to recoup from Cr Julie Hoskin and Kathleen Howard.
Both Cr Hoskin and Ms Howard were listed as lead applicants when the High Court rejected an attempt to appeal the decision to approve the mosque in June 2016.
The High Court also ordered council and Australian Islamic Mission’s legal costs be paid by the applicants.
Councillor Hoskin confirmed she paid AIM’s costs of $5000 in late 2016 but suggested she was “pressured” into it.
"I shouldn't have done it (paid AIM’s costs), I was a new councillor and really overwhelmed at the time. I didn't know what to do," she said.
“I paid the lesser amount because i wanted to get it out of the road.”
Cr Hoskin claims her involvement in legal proceedings regarding the mosque stopped after the unsuccessful Court of Appeal hearing in late 2015.
“As far as I'm aware I'm not liable,” she said.
Cr Hoskin suggested her name should not have been on the High Court documents and the applicants’ lawyer was taking direct instruction from Ms Howard, who also denied responsibility for the legal costs.
“If they want to get blood out of a stone, let them try,” Ms Howard said.
“I'm not responsible for anything.
“They (City of Greater Bendigo) knew I had nothing when we started, they know I have nothing.”
The applicants’ lawyer was contacted to clarify the situation, but he declined to comment.
The bill of costs lodged by Bendigo council will undergo an assessment in the High Court.
City of Greater Bendigo director corporate performance Kerryn Ellis said the situation, at the present time, was not a concern of council.
“It involves actions taken by Ms Hoskin before she was a councillor and the serving of notice has so far not impacted on council business,” she said.
On the length of time it took council to pursue costs, Ms Ellis explained the city gave Cr Hoskin “the opportunity to respond to the court order and repay the costs before it engaged lawyers to pursue cost recovery”.
“It has been a lengthy process that once the city engaged lawyers, then involved the city following High Court cost recovery rules,” she said.
“This involved a bill of costs being prepared by specialist lawyers and then serving notice on Ms Hoskin of the intention to file the bill of costs with the court for enforcement.”
The Victorian Electoral Commission confirmed an individual’s eligibility to stand for public office is not affected by a situation in which they owed the council they were seeking to represent money.
However, the VEC said it would be up to a particular council to determine an outcome through their individual code of conduct.