Damning report on Glen Eira councillors but no action to be taken

Chad Van Estrop, Moorabbin Glen Eira Leader
September 23, 2016 2:30pm

A DAMNING confidential report has found Glen Eira councillors have defamed each other, come “nose to nose” during confrontations and acted as “judge and jury” to matters of infighting.

But according to a copy of the report, seen by Leader, council chief executive Rebecca McKenzie has said “no further action” would be required as a result of the findings by Frances O’Brien QC.

Ms O’Brien was appointed in May to investigate bullying allegations and advise on how to implement the council’s standards of conduct.

The report found:

Council defamed Oscar Lobo when censuring him for an alleged anti-semitic slur;

■ “Childish, silly and disparaging” email exchanges between Cr Jamie Hyams and Cr Lobo breached the councillor code of conduct;

■ An email sent by Michael Lipshutz to Cr Lobo asking if he worked at a bank linked to terrorists was “discriminatory and not innocuous.”

The report also lifts the lid on an ugly spat at a citizenship ceremony this year where Cr Hyams called Cr Lobo a “f**kwit” and Cr Lobo said Cr Hyams was a “little s**t” and the men came “nose to nose”.

Ms O’Brien said in her report that she did not accept that either of the two councillors had “ever been provoked such as to justify the conduct or language they have used”.

And she said their conduct during an increasingly unworkable four-year term “would be unacceptable in any workplace”.

Glen Eira council has blown $18,000 on the report meaning almost $45,000 has been spent this term to tackle infighting.

Leader understands senior council officers were not interviewed by Ms O’Brien for the report.

In July Ms McKenzie said the report made “no recommendations for further action under council’s code of conduct”.

But an April email from mayor Neil Pilling to councillors stated Ms O’Brien was brought in as an “independent arbiter” which meant her recommendations were not legally binding.

In the fall out from the O’Brien report an internal conduct panel has been established for councillors to report disagreements but council insiders have labelled it a “toothless tiger”.

Cr Hyams said he couldn’t comment on the contents of the report.

“There has been a process to resolve the issues and I respect that process,” he said.

Cr Lobo refused to comment on the report.

Ms O’Brien, a senior barrister with extensive experience in employment law and forensic examination of evidence, was one of three members of a commission established to examine workplace culture at Geelong Council earlier this year. That council was sacked in April.

Source: http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/inner-south/damning-report-on-glen-eira-councillors-but-no-action-to-be-taken/news-story/b5047432fde8a478f5697d5ae9d47419



Making matters even worse is the fact that this Council has refused to publish the report, or to take action against all miscreants – especially Hyams!

There has been absolutely no respect for public monies splurged on lawyers. We have received an email from a resident who applied to council under the Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation to gain access to the report. This was refused. The resident then appealed to the FOI Commissioner and in the past few days has received the email we present below – from ‘specialist’ lawyers hired by council to prevent the publication of the report. We can only ask:

  • How much more of ratepayers’ money are these councillors prepared to spend in order to protect themselves?
  • How much longer will bullying and vilification be condoned by these councillors?