"The Exclusive Brethren have been called terrible things in their time, but "fat" was too much for Ron Arkcoll, of Goulburn. He took action. This week, after a long and expensive inquiry, the Mulwaree Shire Council censured Councillor Geoff (Peto) Peterson for intimidating, harassing and abusing the local brethren leader by calling him fat one afternoon last September in the stairwell of the council offices.
Chest pains sent the councillor to Canberra Hospital in August and he found himself in the recovery ward with a young brethren woman from Cowra. According to Cr Peterson, he passed the time joshing with her brethren visitors and it was one of those who first remarked you could identify brethren because "the women wear ribbons in their hair and the men are all chunky".
Shortly after his discharge from hospital, Cr Peterson bumped into Mr Arkcoll, another sect member named Pugh and a council officer in the stairwell of the Mulwaree Shire Offices. After asking how things were going with the rates issue, the councillor mentioned - and the form of words is disputed - fat Brethren men.
"Angry, humiliated and shocked", Mr Arkcoll complained to the council's general manager, Chris Berry.... A team of three spent a month and $20,000 investigating everything ... They found against the councillor. On Tuesday, the council rejected by eight votes to one his plea for time to prepare a rebuttal.
"I got dusted," Cr Peterson told the Herald. He must now have counselling and apologise to Mr Arkcoll and Mr Pugh in writing.