Whistleblower dismissed after bullying row

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 16/01/2014

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A Hamilton City Council staff member sacked after bringing around 100 allegations of bullying within the organisation to light has vowed to fight his dismissal.

Public Service Association delegate Allan Halse, who worked at the council as a property officer for five years, was fired by council chief executive Barry Harris yesterday.

The dismissal came about 10 weeks after Mr Halse was suspended on full pay while an investigation was launched into serious misconduct.

Mr Halse was accused of publishing derogatory statements about the council on the internet, providing information to the media when he was not authorised to, breaching council protocols for protected disclosures, and breaking rules for city staff during an election period.

The investigation included private emails between councillor Dave Macpherson and a Waikato Times reporter.

"I will be going to the Employment Relations Authority and challenging the decision to dismiss me," Mr Halse, who met with his lawyer yesterday, said.

He would not discuss the grounds of his appeal on legal advice. "I am going to mediation with the council in the middle of February."

Mr Macpherson has offered to give evidence in Mr Halse's support.

Mr Halse claimed to have received more than 100 phone calls and texts of support yesterday, as well as more than a score of people post messages of support on his personal Facebook page.

"The dismissal was pre-meditated, is unjustified, and is designed to further cover up many of council's staffing problems . . . the chief executive's actions in this matter will bring the council into further disrepute, and are reprehensible," Mr Macpherson said.

"Mr Halse has been doing his job by raising his concerns with both management and elected members; those who have contributed to his dismissal have not been doing theirs."

He said staff were fearful of speaking out about concerns as a result of Mr Halse's suspension and sacking and the climate of fear would inevitably increase.

Mr Harris declined an interview but said he had "undertaken a full and fair investigation into concerns over Mr Halse's behaviour."

"I have concluded that he made serious breaches of council policies and his obligations as an employee of Hamilton City Council. I believe that dismissal was the appropriate outcome.

"I am not at liberty to discuss the details of the investigations."

Public Service Association spokesman Matthew O'Driscoll said the association had no comment on the case.

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker did not return a call from the Times, but her deputy Gordon Chesterman said it was an "an employment matter that has been decided on by the CEO".

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Mr Chesterman said Mr Macpherson had brought around 100 allegations of bullying to him which he had not provided any evidence of.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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