THE antagonism and tension between then councillor Fiona Rossiter and Orange Ratepayers' Association (ORA) members Brian Wood and Cyril Smith in the lead-up to last year's Orange City Council election was "like an episode of The Sopranos", according to magistrate Michael Allen.
Mr Allen on Thursday denied an application by Ms Rossiter to have personal apprehended violence orders taken out against both men in a case that has been before the courts since last December.
Handing down his decision in Bathurst Local Court Mr Allen slammed the Orange Ratepayers' Association (ORA), telling them to "take a long hard look at yourself" and accusing them of using bully boy tactics and rude and unsavoury behaviour towards Ms Rossiter.
Mr Allen said the application and defence of the AVO had taken up an inordinate amount of court resources stretching over several days, from December last year in Orange through to Thursday's findings.
Mr Allen said Mr Wood's opposition to the granting of a liquor licence to Ms Rossiter's family business Bissy's Cafe, an altercation at the Orange City Bowling Club at the ORA annual general meeting, and a message passed on to Ms Rossiter she was "digging a hole for herself were part of a political struggle leading up to the council election.
"It was like an episode of The Sopranos," he said.
Mr Allen said he believed Ms Rossiter was distressed and fearful, saying there was a history of significant antagonism involved in the case.
However, he said Ms Rossiter had some commercial motivation for attending the ORA meeting, referring to the refusal of a liquor licence for Bissy's Cafe, which he believed led to an ongoing campaign against her.
Mr Allen said the altercation between Ms Rossiter's supporters and Mr Wood and Mr Smith at the AGM in July last year, when police were called to eject Ms Rossiter, her husband Paul, Scott Jacobs and Derek Maitland, was a clear indication of the nature of the relationship between the two groups.
"It left a long-lasting distaste in the mouths of both parties," Mr Allen said.
"While I am not entirely convinced by Ms Rossiter's motivation to attend the AGM, I have no doubt about her level of distress."
Referring to the message given to councillor Kevin Duffy by Mr Smith in Summer Street in September that Ms Rossiter was "digging a hole for herself," Mr Allen told the court it formed part of the crux of the application for the AVOs..
"It was not just the message but the way in which that message was delivered," he said.
"And it was curious in the way it was delivered at such a time of heightened tensions."
That message was passed on from Cr Duffy to Orange mayor John Davis who then told Ms Rossiter. She then went to police to take out two AVOs but was told she didn't have sufficient grounds.
Referring in depth to the act under which he could grant the AVOs, Mr Allen said he had "walked a long factual mile on a short pier".
In summing up Mr Allen said he was not granting the orders as the events had unfolded in the context of a political struggle, but said Mr Wood and Mr Smith had lowered the tone of political discourse in the lead-up to the council election and may have contributed to Ms Rossiter's decision not to run for council again.
Both parties applied to have court costs in the lengthy case awarded, but were denied by Mr Allen.