THERE'S no doubt mystery Newcastle Herald letter to the editor writer Scott Neylon is more than happy to bend the truth to suit his own agenda.
For months, the expat who has lived in Japan since at least 1998 and who is close mates with City of Newcastle chief executive Jeremy Bath, has waged an angry campaign in his offerings against Wallsend MP Sonia Hornery.
His extended masquerade over almost a decade has seen the 47-year-old regularly misspell his surname as Neylan and claim to be everything from a pensioner to a grandfather to having lived in five different suburbs throughout the Hunter in the past nine years, and all the while he's been living overseas.
Mr Neylon's latest letters attacking Ms Hornery have arrived at the Herald at the same time as Mr Bath, lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes and her Labor councillors are engaged in a bitter public dispute with the Wallsend MP over the future of council's pools.
Now the target of the letter attacks has written to the Minister for Local Government, Ron Hoenig, asking for an investigation into the matter, and has called on all City of Newcastle councillors to support the move.
Ms Hornery, whose call for an independent investigation was backed on the weekend by Newcastle's federal and state MPs Sharon Claydon and Tim Crakanthorp, said she was concerned about the revelation in Saturday's Herald detailing the close links between Mr Neylon and Mr Bath.
Both men have denied any involvement by Mr Bath in the letters.
Ms Hornery said most concerning was the fact that Mr Neylon's letter campaign included the council pool leasing issue, which was delegated to his friend Mr Bath after Labor councillors declared conflicts of interest in the matter, meaning a quorum of councillors could not be reached to vote on awarding a tender.
"I have written to the Minister for Local Government requesting that the Office of Local Government conduct a thorough, independent investigation into any potential breaches of council's code of conduct and the Local Government Act," Ms Hornery said.
"There are serious questions to answer. For the sake of transparency, I am calling on all councillors to join me in asking the Office of Local Government to investigate this matter."
Mr Neylon's latest letter aimed at Ms Hornery, in which he describes himself as a struggling pensioner from Stockton who spends his days at council pools with his grandkids, arrived on the same day as the Herald published a story detailing how the dispute between the Wallsend MP and Newcastle councillors had reached boiling point amid claims of "damaging statements", "categorically incorrect claims", "gutless" actions and "a repetition of the lies".
Civic reporter Sage Swinton's June 28 story appeared on the Herald's website at 1.30pm and Mr Neylon's letter to the editor arrived about ten hours later at 11.26pm.
"For the better part of twelve months the only time I've spotted Sonia Hornery in the Herald has been to complain about local pools," Mr Neylon wrote.
"I can only assume she's never visited one.They are cheap as chips and a bloody good day out for our grandkids. The staff are lovely, the water always clean, and for pensioners like us, just about the only all-day activity we can afford. Give it a rest Sonia and get on with reopening Wallsend Police Station like you promised you would."
Federal Newcastle MP Ms Claydon, also a target of Mr Neylon's letters, agreed on the weekend that the matter should be independently investigated.
"There are many questions raised by this report that only Mr Bath and Mr Neylon, or Neylan or whatever he goes by, can answer," Ms Claydon said.
"I note the State Member for Wallsend has referred this to the NSW Minister for Local Government for an independent investigation, which I think is entirely appropriate."
Minister for the Hunter Mr Crakanthorp said it was the only way forward.
"There are serious questions that have been raised here, and an independent investigation is the most appropriate way to have them answered," he said.
Independent Newcastle councillor John Church, another of Mr Neylon's subjects, questioned Mr Bath's involvement in the covert letter writing campaign.
"Has the Newcastle council's highest paid employee been engaging in misleading and deceptive behaviour?" Cr Church asked.
"Has Mr Bath been pretending to be someone else in order to engage in political debate?
"Has he breached his contract and the local government act which requires him to focus on operational matters not political commentary?"
Mr Bath said he has been friends with Mr Neylon since before university.
"I've never asked or suggested to him to send a letter to anyone," he said. "Like most friends we don't always agree on politics, and the same is true for the content of his letters. Scott splits his time between Australia and overseas and when he's back he always stays at my place and shares my postal address for mail and bills."
The Herald reported on Saturday that the subject matter of Mr Neylon's letters appears to follow Mr Bath's career progression. When Mr Bath changes jobs, Mr Neylon changes the subject of his letters. His first letter to the Herald was in support of Hunter Water when Mr Bath worked there.
In recent years, following Mr Bath's appointment to CEO of City of Newcastle, the subject of Mr Neylon's letters have turned to more civic issues.
In an emailed response on Friday, Mr Neylon sidestepped questions about why he sometimes misspells his surname and the numerous inconsistencies and inaccuracies in his correspondence over the past decade.
He said he always uses his real name, his real email address and his real mobile phone number.
A review of the letters reveals Mr Neylon has provided the Herald with four different mobile numbers, two email addresses and he's claimed to have lived at eight different addresses throughout the Hunter.
"I always stay with Jeremy and his family when I'm home. He's never asked me to write letters to newspapers and on a few occasions has suggested I give up the hobby," Mr Neylon said.
He went further to defend his 18 letters to the editor over the past nine years.
"At the end of the day, while I'm having a bit of fun, there's truth in every letter I've ever penned," he said.
While acknowledging public criticism was part of an elected officials' job, Mr Hornery said as someone "repeatedly targeted for attack in letters written in Mr Neylon's name, whoever he may be, I am especially troubled by the report in the Herald".
"Given more than half of the elected council declared a significant non-pecuniary interest which conflicted them out of making a decision on the city's inland pools, handing the decision over to Mr Bath, I am especially concerned that some of the letters in question touched on the issue."
Along with Mr Neylon's criticism of Ms Hornery, Ms Claydon, Mr Crakanthorp and Cr Church, has been a campaign to attack the credibility of those who have spoken out against the council.
Targeted so far have been former councillor and Restore Newcastle Maritime Museum working party spokesman Bob Cook, former NBN newsreader Ray Dineen, Newcastle Herald columnist Paul Scott, retired Newcastle East Public School principal John Beach, former Greens councillor Therese Doyle and East End residents.
Maitland Mayor Philip Penfold also come in for flak in an unpublished letter from last last year for increasing council rates, with Mr Neylon claiming his "partner" owns property in Maitland.
"With inflation at 7 per cent, interest rates doubling and petrol prices up, I hope Mayor Penfold realises that the community is doing it much tougher than 12 months ago when he promised to freeze rates," Mr Neylon wrote.
"So far the only person who has said anything about what is going to happen is the General Manager David Evans, and all he said was that it was a decision for the Mayor! So why the cone of silence Mayor Penfold?"
All the while, the letters support Mr Bath and Cr Nelmes and their running of the city.
Do you know more? Donna.email@example.com
- With verification research by Jessica Brown
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