The Australian Local Government Women’s Association (ALGWA) has made formal complaints about a series of Herald Sun articles on former Melbourne Lord Mayor Robert Doyle’s sexual harassment case.

ALGWA has lodged documents with both the Press Council and the Journalist Union saying that the articles were misleading, unfair, unbalanced and economical with the truth.

The ALGWA was particularly concerned about a photograph in a swimsuit of former Councillor Tessa Sullivan holding her young son being splashed across the front page together with an unrelated text message.

Cr Sullivan has lashed out at the media coverage this week too.

ALGWA is also calling for changes to the Councillor Code of Conduct to include sexual harassment and an independent reporting and decision-making process outside of Mayors or Councillors.

The articles came after a complaint of sexual harassment was lodged against the former Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle.

ALGWA says the articles have a direct effect on a former Councillor and women in local government generally, and could make it less likely that women would report similar incidents given the coverage in the Herald Sun.

“We are concerned there are no harassment provisions, sexual or otherwise, in the Councillor Code of Conduct rules,” said National ALGWA President Cr Coral Ross.

“We are also concerned that in some Councils complaints go to the Mayor or Deputy Mayor, even if they involve the Mayor. Some Codes allow for arbiters. But even after internal arbitration the matter goes to all councillors to decide on possible sanctions. We believe the process is flawed and there needs to be a route independent of Council,” she added.

The Herald Sun published a series of texts and photographs which had been tendered as evidence to the legal investigation into allegations against Mr. Doyle.

“The photograph of the former Councillor in a bikini was a holiday shot and sent to several people,” said ALGWA Vic President Helen Coleman.

“The headline came from a text sent months later following an unrelated event. Putting the two together was misleading and created the wrong impression.

“We have not made this complaint lightly. But we feel strongly that the coverage was victim blaming and will make it much harder for women councillors to make claims if they risk being splashed across the front page of a national newspaper in a swimsuit,” added Ms. Coleman.