Councillor, teen call truce in online spat

Last updated 05:00 30/05/2014

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New Plymouth Mayor Andrew Judd has stepped into a smouldering online battle involving one of his councillors - and a 16-year-old.

Murray Chong has regularly complained of being the victim of online attacks and has now taken issue with teenage political hopeful and newly-elected youth working party member Michael Riley.

He has cited the council's code of conduct and complained the 16-year-old should abide by it.

"I've had enough," he told the Daily News. "I had to put my foot down and say you can't do this anymore. I don't care if you are 16 or 66 you have to follow the rules - we have a code of conduct."

The pair are making claim and counterclaim.

Chong has accused Riley, who runs a Youth in Politics Facebook page, of being part of a ring of people in New Plymouth who have spent 18 months trying to discredit him and his business.

He says a smear campaign has included online postings about his love life, involves dubious Facebook pages and an "invented" critic named Nancy Wong.

During the run up to last October's election Chong complained that a website had used his name to set up a website with a similar name to one he ran.

It was also reported at the time that the domain name had been registered to a mystery person who had listed a false address. Chong and Riley have sparred again on line this week.

On Tuesday Riley posted on the Youth in Politics Facebook page that Chong had been banned from the group because of harassment.

Riley said he hoped he could rebuild the relationship with councillor Chong.

"Murray doesn't want to be discredited just as much as I don't want to be discredited," Riley said.

Judd said the issue had been brought to his attention and he was not impressed on any front.

He said he had asked council's community development manager Leighton Littlewood to make Riley, who was inducted into the youth working party this week, aware of how he was expected to behave.

Judd said he had also met Chong and discussed the problems. "We discussed what I expect of a councillor," he said.

While an official warning had not been given to either party Judd said he wanted the behaviour to stop. "People are entitled to free speech but I do have an expectation of common decency and respect," he said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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