Review rejects trio of City bully claims

By Luke Voogt

A “robust“ review process has rejected three bullying complaints against council as “unsubstantiated”, a leaked email has revealed.

In an email to councillors chief executive officer Martin Cutter said all three former employees used “our robust internal processes supporting stamping out bullying”.

“Entirely independent” third party investigators interviewed all parties and witnesses before finding each claim was “not substantiated“, Mr Cutter said.

Geelong’s council attempted “restoring working relationships” with the individuals but they “resigned instead”, he said.

Mr Cutter yesterday announced a review of council’s workplace procedures, in place since State Government sacked Geelong’s council in 2016 citing bullying.

“It is vital that we hear directly from our employees as well as the community, and the review will encourage this,” Mr Cutter said.

In a 2700-person organisation workplace issues were “not unusual“, he said.

Mr Cutter declined to detail how complaints council employees had made since 2016, citing privacy issues but in the email he described the “list“ as “long“.

Australian Services Union Victorian secretary Lisa Darmanin accused council of sweeping bullying “under the carpet“ and had “very serious concerns“ about its culture.

“It’s disgusting that the CEO is more concerned with the reputation of the organisation than with stamping out bullying and providing a safe workplace.”

Ms Darmanin described Mr Cutter “dismissing” bullying complaints as unsubstantiated as “astonishing”.

Council had “been unwilling” to tell the union how many bullying claims its employees had made over recent years, she said.

“The union has received a number of complaints about bullying that the victims were too scared to bring to (council) for fear of reprisal.”

Councillor Kylie Grzybek said council had failed to communicate its “robust“ processes for resolving bullying complaints to its workforce and the public.

“The unions are very rightly saying there are issues but I don’t think they’re widespread or endemic. Given (council’s) history, we’re obviously sensitive to these types of claims.”

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