Principal takes Twitter critic to court over ‘savage campaign’

by Robert Ballantyne31 Mar 2016

A principal of an elite Melbourne school is suing its former marketing director who set up a Twitter account to ridicule him.

According to a Supreme Court document, the account, created last year under the handle @TanPersonSays, used the fake name “Mr T” to accuse The Peninsula School principal, Stuart Johnston, of nepotism, bullying and financial mismanagement.

“The plaintiff was widely known in The Peninsula School community as a man of tanned complexion,” Johnston said in his statement, according to the Herald Sun.

The principal has since launched defamation proceedings against Nicola Holland, who was unmasked as the individual behind the account.

“The plaintiff was widely known in The Peninsula School community as a man of tanned complexion,” Johnston said in his statement, adding Holland used an image on the Twitter account which bared “an unflattering resemblance to the plaintiff”.

Johnston claims Holland accused him of promoting his friends to the school board, misappropriating parent association funds, and presiding over a culture of bullying “for the purpose of advancing a malicious campaign to remove the plaintiff as principal of the Peninsula School.”

One of the tweets in question read: “claims that someone has had their hand in the till!”, referring to accusations of financial abuse.

The principal claims Holland initially denied any involvement with the controversial social media account when approached by his lawyers in August last year.

However, in her February defence, she revealed herself as having posted comments using the moniker, but denied publishing the offending tweets, and denied attributing them to Johnston.

Holland went on to clarify each imputation, declaring that if they were found to be defamatory, then they were true in substance and fact. In her defence, she said Johnston employed his golf teacher and stepdaughter at the school.

The case is set to go to trial in the Supreme Court.
 

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