Ex-officer allowed to pursue bullying claim

MARTY SHARPE
Last updated 05:00 11/06/2014

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A Hawke's Bay officer who claims he left police because of workplace bullying has been allowed to pursue his personal grievance, despite opposition by the police commissioner.

Graham Howse served as a sworn police officer for 15 years, most recently in Central Hawke's Bay, before he resigned in November 2011.

He claims he was constructively dismissed.

The commissioner claims he voluntarily resigned and that he did not raise his personal grievance until it was too late.

The Employment Relations Authority has ruled that Howse should be allowed to pursue his grievance and directed that he and the commissioner hold mediation talks.

Howse, who has been the Central Hawke's Bay District Council emergency management officer since leaving the police, claimed he held various meetings with his employer in which he raised concerns over what he considered to be workplace bullying.

He took exception to being placed on a performance implementation plan, and to a meeting with the employee practices manager in which he felt "fobbed off", and disliked the requirement that he supply a doctor's certificate every time he took sick leave.

This was "bully boy" tactics, Howse told an inspector in his exit interview.

He hired a lawyer a month after he left, and a short letter was sent to the police human resources manager informing her that a "full factual statement" would be sent in the new year.

But it wasn't until September 2012 that a synopsis and chronology of events leading to Howse's resignation were sent to police.

The human resources manager said Howse had not raised the grievance within the required 90 days.

The authority held an investigation meeting in February this year to determine whether the personal grievance could be pursued.

At the meeting Howse acknowledged he may not have raised the issue of workplace bullying until his exit interview on November 9, 2011.

Employment Relations Authority member Trish MacKinnon found Howse had not raised his personal grievance within the required 90 days, but had relied on his lawyer to do so.

His lawyer had "unreasonably failed" to raise the complaint within the required timeframe.

She acknowledged the commissioner's view that the delay may have affected recollection of events and that some personnel had left police since the events, but she said this was not good reason to deny Howse the right to pursue his grievance.

Neither Howse nor police would comment yesterday.

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