Renowned surf club’s bitter civil war revealed

A bitter war over claims of alleged financial dishonesty has broken out at one of the state's most prestigious and historic surf lifesaving clubs.

The former treasurer of the Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club (SPSLC) has sued a committee member claiming $500,000 in damages for distress, upset and embarrassment caused by allegedly false claims he is incompetent, dishonest and has acted negligently as club treasurer.

Warren Peters, 58, who represented Australia in surf life saving in the 1980s competing alongside current club president and former champion ironman Trevor Hendy, states in his claim filed in the District Court in Southport last week that he was defamed by club committee member Shane Aiken, from Surfers Paradise, at last year's annual general meeting (AGM).

Warren Peters and wife Leanne at 90th anniversary celebrations for Surfers Paradise SLSC, Surfers Paradise. Picture: Regina King
Warren Peters and wife Leanne at 90th anniversary celebrations for Surfers Paradise SLSC, Surfers Paradise. Picture: Regina King

Mr Peters, from Newmarket in Brisbane's inner north, alleges in his claim that during the AGM on August 23 Mr Aiken told the audience of 88 people that Mr Peters' treasurer's report for the 2019-2020 financial year falsely claimed the club posted a profit, "despite a profit not in fact being made".

Mr Peters also alleges that Mr Aiken also told the audience that Mr Peters "failed or was otherwise unable to" balance the club's books, had mismanaged club funds and spent moneys in such a way that caused the surf patrol and nipper areas of the club to "suffer".

Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club committee member Shane Aiken
Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club committee member Shane Aiken

He also alleges Mr Aiken told the AGM that the SPSLC had "improperly refused to sign a Gold Coast City Council lease which meant that the supporter's club was operating illegally".

Mr Peters alleges that Aiken's statements to the AGM audience had the meaning that he was "incompetent as treasurer of the SPSLC", that he "dishonestly reported a profit" for the club in his report when "there was not one", and that his statements meant that Mr Peters "has been dishonest and/or negligent" in his duties to the club.

Mr Peters, who remains a member of the SPSLC and took on the role of treasurer as an unpaid volunteer, is claiming damages to vindicate his reputation and compensate him for distress and embarrassment, court documents state.

He is also seeking an injunction restraining Mr Aiken from continuing to publish or further publishing the claims.

Mr Peters has asked the court to award him $350,000 in general damages as well as $150,000 for aggravated damages claiming Mr Aiken has refused to retract the imputations or apologise.

Mr Peters was treasurer of the SPSLC for about 18 months until stepping down in recent weeks.

He previously served as the clubs treasurer for about three years about 15 years ago.

 

Warren Peters (left) in the final of the interstate beach flags event at the Australian surf lifesaving championships at Moana 20 Mar 1985.
Warren Peters (left) in the final of the interstate beach flags event at the Australian surf lifesaving championships at Moana 20 Mar 1985.

 

Speaking outside of court Mr Peters told The Courier-Mail that he decided to take legal action to ensure club members think before they make false claims.

"I'm over all the mudslinging that can go on in these organisations.

"People just have to think before they open their mouth. I don't want other people to experience the things that were said about me in that role," Mr Peters said.

No court date has been set for hearing. Mr Aiken has not filed a defence to the claims.

Originally published as Renowned surf club's bitter civil war revealed


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