Arts & Entertainment

Further bullying complaints emerge from City’s ranger unit

BY CHRISTOPHER HARRIS

An email from a City of Sydney employee to Councillors claims the City’s CEO dismissed further complaints of bullying, just days after the suspected suicide of a council ranger.

The employee from the City of Sydney Council ranger unit wrote to councillors last week “as a last resort” after his complaints were dismissed without explanation and he was indefinitely suspended from work.

It states that his complaints were dismissed on June 26, just days after ranger Leong Lim was found dead in his apartment.

Just the month before, Lim had emailed Council CEO Monica Barone and Lord Mayor Clover Moore complaining of “corruption” and poor mental health with the Council’s ranger unit.

In a June 26 meeting with the second employee, his solicitor, the Lord Mayor’s chief of staff and CEO Monica Barone, Ms Barone said that she was satisfied that council policy and procedures had been followed.

In the email, the employee said he was not sure what investigation had actually taken place to arrive at this conclusion.

It was agreed that the employee would not be penalized for raising his complaint.

But that all changed when he returned from annual leave on November 11, when the employee was informed he was immediately suspended from duty and was escorted off council property.

“I am happy for all Councilors to view the material which will be relied upon should I be dismissed or demoted for talking to my Union Representative!” the email reads.

Because of the looming possibility of a coronial inquest into the death of ranger Leong Lim, the employee said he could potentially be called upon as a witness in the coronial inquest.

“I therefore ask you in the interest of fair play, to consider intervening on my behalf and take whatever steps are available to you as a Councilor to delay consideration of my termination or other disciplinary action by the Chief Executive

Officer until after the Coroner’s determination,” the employee wrote to the councillors.

The Coroner is expected to conduct an internal in-chambers review on February 12 for Leong Lim’s death. Following that, it will be decided if a coronial inquiry will proceed.

Councillor Edward Mandla said that it was “extraudinary” that the City was having these sorts of discussions around the same time that Leong Lim died.

“Unfortunately I am not surprised this has come up again because there has been this recurring theme of bullying in the council rangers unit,” Clr Mandla told City Hub.

He said it was concerning that the complaint was dismissed again by the CEO at a meeting just days after the death of Leong Lim.

He said an external review was overdue.

“I think we are all fed up with the City doing internal investigations on itself.”

“The City is full of people doing internal investigation and human resources people. People who make a complaint feel like they are going through a termination or execution process, not a complaint process.”

“I have been on this 18 months talking about mismanagement of rangers unit. We had Warfield report talking about bullying and cronyism, and all the copies of that report have been substantially redacted.”

He said the email revealed to him for the first time a recommendation from the 2012 Warfield report, which said that the council should let rangers know the ” progress of grievances and code of conduct breaches so they don’t think the grievance has been “swept under the carpet””.

Clr Mandla said “For the first time we saw a recommendation from that report in the email, that people know about the complaints process, and then we learn that there has been no intention of the City to follow that recommendation”.

A spokesperson for the City of Sydney said that the City was taking the allegations seriously and denied the matter had been dismissed by the CEO, but rather offered the employee “options” to resolve those matters.

“After a staff member in the rangers unit wrote to the Lord Mayor last year, the CEO met personally with the employee to hear about their concerns,” The spokesperson said.

“The matter was not dismissed by the CEO, who reviewed the complaints raised with senior managers and HR staff before offering the employee options to resolve those matters.”

“The complaint was managed in line with the City’s personnel policies that set out a system and process for making and dealing with complaints.”

“An investigation has been conducted internally, according to the City’s policies and processes, and the City is satisfied the complaints process has been applied fairly.”

“The City ensures all employees and managers are aware of their responsibilities in preventing, reporting and dealing with complaints about harassment and bullying.”

The City spokesperson said that they would not be commenting further on the matter to respect the privacy of the employee involved.