IN 2019, when Newcastle Independent councillor Allan Robinson was accused by Newcastle deputy lord mayor Declan Clausen of homophobia, he denied the charge, saying he had very good friends who were gay.
He said the same last year when the openly gay Clausen took "Robbo" to the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board.
Robinson mentioned his gay friends again in July, when the council voted seven to four to release a previously confidential 46-page "code of conduct" report that investigated various allegations against him, and found him guilty of seven out of eight.
Interested to hear from his gay friends, I rang Robinson to get their numbers.
This is what happened.
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The couple he referred me to, Geoff and George, told me they met him 18 years ago when they moved into the same street he was living in with his wife Michelle, and their two children, Maddi and Jye, who are now young adults.
Geoff worked on Robinson's first election campaign in 2012.
They both worked on his 2017 re-election and will help again in December, where Robinson intends to run a team of three in Ward 4.
George says: "There's no way Robbo is homophobic. He couldn't care less what you are. He doesn't categorise people."
They say they have both counselled him to moderate his language but are adamant he has "no problems with homosexuality".
George and Geoff went on to tell me some other things about Robinson that they doubted people knew about, mainly because they say "he doesn't blow his own trumpet".
The first involves Corpus Christi Primary School at Waratah, where his daughter Maddi, now 24, and son Jye, 21, went to school.
Robinson said Jye came home from school one day "soaking wet".
"I said, 'who's been throwing water over you?', and he said 'no-one Dad, it's just there's no air-conditioners and it's very hot," Robbinson said.
Louise Wilson, who worked in the school's administration office for 30 years before retiring in 2017, takes up the story, saying Robinson rang to ask if he could air-condition his children's classrooms.
When he was told they couldn't favour one class over another, he said he would buy them for all of the rooms.
And so, in the mid-2000s, the small Catholic school had all seven classrooms fitted with air-conditioners.
"The public only sees one side of Allan Robinson but there is another," Mrs Wilson said. "He is an incredibly generous man."
She said that when Sudanese children started attending the school, he was worried about the "struggles" they would be having, and so he would say "what do they need?" and he would buy them books, and pens and pencils.
RELATED READING: Gay councillors want Robinson gone
And he donated generously to the school.
"I'm not painting him as a saint," Mrs Wilson said.
"He could be incredibly naughty and crude and whatever but never once was he rude to me or the staff.
"He still calls me Mrs Wilson now, and I say, Robbo, I think we can get past that.
"I get very frustrated when I hear people criticising him, saying Robbo's said this, or said that, but I think he's just saying what a lot of people just think silently anyway!
"He has no filter, none whatsoever, but that's what endears him to a lot of people."
His generosity has also endeared him to 20-year-old Jacob Cooper, Jacob's mother Sue Cooper, and his grandmother, Marj Black.
On June 10, 2017, Marj, of Shortland, had a letter to the editor published in the Newcastle Herald.
"Could the person who found the PlayStation on the wheelchair at John Hunter Hospital on Friday afternoon, May 5, please return it to the hospital as it belongs to my grandson who has been undergoing many months of treatment for leukaemia and had been in isolation for many weeks," the letter began.
The PlayStation was never returned, but Marj said she someone rang her saying: "You don't know me, my name is Allan Robinson and I'd like to buy Jacob another PlayStation."
Marj put Robinson in touch with her daughter.
Sue Cooper said he had told her he was "really saddened" by the letter.
"I told him 'I can't take your money, but I really appreciate the gesture'," Sue said.
"But he persisted, saying 'I really get a lot out of helping kids, can you please let me replace it?"
Sue said Jacob was well enough to go to JB Hi-Fi at Kotara.
There, a somewhat overwhelmed 15-year-old fresh out of hospital pointed to the cheapest PlayStation on display.
Robinson was having none of that, and insisted on buying the top-of-the-range, and a pile of games on top.
Jacob said he was amazed that "he went out of his way to do that even though he didn't know me".
Robinson and the family stayed in touch.
Jacob is approaching five years in remission, and has begun an apprenticeship as a mechanic, helped into the job by a reference from Robinson, who had also given him six months work on his farm while he was trying to land his apprenticeship.
Robbo's critics will say this does nothing to lessen his offensive behaviour in council.
But it's what I found when I went looking, and I reckon it's worth reporting.
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