Wednesday, 17 December 2008

The complaint from Ms Walsh

This is a word-for-word copy of the complaint from Group Manager Ms Walsh received Saturday, 29 November 2008.


I lodge a breach of the code of conduct by Cr Michael Osborne.

In The Herald on Saturday 10th May 2008, Cr Osborne was quoted as saying the overseas study tour by Mr Brent Knowles and myself was “convenient” because of my marital status to Brent.

The Code of Conduct clearly states:

“5.1 You must avoid………conduct that;
• Causes, comprises or involved discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment in relation to employment.
• Causes, comprises or involves intimidation, harassment or verbal abuse

5.3 You must treat others with respect at all times.

5.6 You must not harass, discriminate against …….colleagues.”

Further, Council adopted a Media Policy in 2007 that states:

“5 Guiding Principles;
• Council officials …….should refrain from using the media to make negative person reflections ……or comments that could be interpreted as such and which are reasonably likely to undermine public confidence in the Council…”

I believe that Cr Osborne has discriminated against me on the basis of my marital status. I put it that if I was attending the overseas study with any other SMT member apart from Brent, he would not/could not have made the comment about the trip being “convenient” for me.

Not only do I believe he has acted discriminatively towards me, he has caused me embarrassment, denigrated me professionally and intimidated me. I am severely offended as I have not breached any policy and have acted in accordance of all requirements only to be belittled. Budget allocation for professional development had been established some years earlier specifically for SMT members and a full business case had been presented to the Overseas Travel Committee for approval to study at MIT. The Overseas Travel Committee unanimously endorsed the recommendation.

The code of conduct provides for protection of employees against adverse treatment and breaches of the like by Cr Osborne and leaves Council exposed to liability for Council failing to discharge its common law duty of care. This duty requires employers follow adopted policies and procedures which are designed to protect employees.


I believe that I am being victimised and by Cr Osborne as a consequence of my initial complaint.

On June 13th 2008, a further article was published in the Newcastle Herald in which Cr Osborne state he was called to a meeting with the Lord Mayor and acting General Manager “after Ms Walsh made a verbal complaint”. Cr Osborne is quoted as saying: It’s trying to gag what legitimately is in the public interest. ……….. These sort of frivolous complaints are a way of gagging councillors who are only trying to act in the best interests of the community”.

This statement reflects poorly on my behalf and implies that I am acting in bad faith. It reflects badly on me personally in a public setting and calls into question my bona fides as a senior officer.

In a forum where I am unable to defend myself, I have been exposed to ridicule, causing me embarrassment and humiliation.

Further, the Herald articles were pinned up onto the notice boards at the Depot which have caused me severe embarrassment with my workforce.

I feel this victimisation, bullying and harassment will continue in various forms, from further media articles to excessive and unreasonable work scrutiny, including work related expenses, malicious rumours, gossip and innuendo.

This innuendo is evidenced by the e-mail that was (I assume) inadvertently sent to Brent Knowles from (former) Cr Parsons. The e-mail was forwarded to (former) Cr Parsons from Cr Osborne and is clear evidence of work related harassment. It states:
From: Brent Knowles
Sent: Friday, 18 July 2008 3:37 PM
To: Janice Walsh; Graham Clarke
Subject: FW: [Fwd: Memo from AGM re Ms Walsh complaint]

I am not sure what this is about? Looks like I may have been inadvertently included in the loop.


From: Keith Parsons []
Sent: Friday, 18 July 2008 11:30 AM
To: Brent Knowles; Cr Ian McKenzie; Cr Michael Osborne (Hunterlink); Cr Barbara Gaudry (Hunterlink); Cr Cassandra Arnold (Hunterlink); Cr Paul Scobie (Hunterlink)
Subject: FW: [Fwd: Memo from AGM re Ms Walsh complaint]


From: Keith Parsons []
Sent: Friday, 18 July 2008 10:21 AM
To: ‘’; ‘Cr Ian McKenzie (Hunterlink)’; ‘Cassandra Arnold’
Subject: RE: [Fwd: Memo from AGM re Ms Walsh complaint]

If you haven’t received a complaint in writing, detailing the exact nature of the complaint, there is no complaint.

She made no complaint about me, even though I commented in the Herald (& I gave you a copy of the leave application).
Did you admit leaking anything to the Herald?

From: Michael Osborne []
Sent: Thursday, 17 July 2008 3:33 PM
To: Cr Ian McKenzie (Hunterlink); Cassandra Arnold; Keith Parsons
Subject: [Fwd: Memo from AGM re Ms Walsh complaint]


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Memo from AGM re Ms Walsh complaint
Date: Thu, 17 Jul 2008 15:20:28 +1000
From: Christine Minehan


Christine Minehan
Executive Assistant to General Manager /
Manager Council Services Team
Newcastle City Council
PO Box 489
P: 02 4974 2211
F: 02 4974 2201

I note that when the pervious General Manager, Janet Dore studied at Oxford University, she was not publicly or internally exposed to this level of ridicule or scrutiny. In fact, she was supported by Council to study overseas. Further, when the former Group Manager City Strategy, David Crofts went to a planning conference in the USA, he was not subjected to this scrutiny. Neither of their trips were publicised with intent to embarrass, humiliate, bully and harass.

As a professional correctly discharging my duties and obligations, following the comments by Cr Osborne, I no longer feel I am working in a safe environment. This is a breach of the OH&S Act in which Council is legally obliged to provide a safe working environment free of intimidation, harassment or threats.


In leaking my application to the overseas committee to the Herald, the first article published in May 2008 stated that Brent Knowles and myself were attending the MIT course “next month”. It also named the course we were attending. This left our property in a very vulnerable position. A person could easily have determined exactly when we would be absent and easily found out our address. This was a constant source of stress and worry whilst I was away.

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