Damning report alleges bullying at HCC
HCC CEO urges report to be destroyedDANIEL ADAMS
Hamilton City Council chief executive Barry Harris wants a report alleging bullying and harrassment at the organisation destroyed.
The whistleblowing report by current and former staff was today tabled at a council finance and monitoring meeting by chairman Dave Macpherson, who claimed managers wanted it suppressed.
But the report which alleged a systemic culture of bullying and harassment wasn't received by the committee at the instruction of Mr Harris who urged committee members to hand it back.
Most councillors complied, with a vote to receive the report 10-3 against.
Mr Harris said his ''strong advice'' was the report was a legal risk to council, and it was inappropriate to discuss or receive it.
"My advice to you, given what I'm hearing about what is in this, is that there is potential risk to the organisation, and a potential to defame individuals, and my advice to you would be not to hold a copy, and to pass it on to staff to be destroyed," said Mr Harris.
According to its executive summary, the report was compiled by staff to ''counter management claims that the embedded Hamilton City Council culture of bullying and harassment and other inappropriate behaviours does not exist, does not pose a risk, and is being resolved.''
The report claims council has an embedded culture of unfair conduct, which sees favoured staff protected while ''the non-elite'' are disposable.
The Waikato Times earlier obtained a copy which has had parts identifying complainants and alleged bullies removed by its authors, listed in the report only as former city staff, some now living overseas.
Mr Macpherson said the complete version of the report was handed to the council's external protected disclosure contact one month ago, and he had presented a sanitised copy to his committee to ensure it was dealt with.
While some parts of the report were removed from the original, it still contains allegations of bullying against specific city council managers.
It paints a picture of staff morale in stark contrast to previous council management assertions that it is appropriately handling bullying issues.
''The underlying ethical tone is one where difference - race, gender or opinion - is wrong, and therefore considered a hazard..employees keep their heads down, do what they're told, are reluctant to make decisions within their authority, and tend not to escalate reports of fraudulent or unacceptable behaviour, preferring to leave or try to quietly guts it out.''
Mr Macpherson faced a sustained grilling from councillors uncomfortable at the prospect of receiving the report.
He said it was the right of any elected member to table documents and he was denied that right when the audit and risk committee met last week.
''There has been a systematic attempt by management to prevent me providing this information to elected members, and in my opinion it's a matter of risk and danger to the organisation,'' said Mr Macpherson.
Council organisational development general manager Olly Te Ua warned councillors he had not seen the version tabled and was concerned it would open the city to the risk of legal action for breaching individual's privacy.
Mr Te Ua said the report had been received by him last week, and he was seeking advice on whether any elements of the document breached the threshold of ''serious wrongdoing'' under the protected disclosure policy.
''He will report back to the chief executive on that point, next month.''
Mr Te Ua warned councillors last night against disclosing the document.
''My strong advice is that you do not receive this document,'' he said.
Councillors Macpherson, Martin Gallagher and Ewan Wilson all supported receiving the report but were outvoted by the remaider of the committee.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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