Leak from Terry Moran report says Geelong council could be sacked

By Stephen Easton

April 4, 2016

Victorian Minister for Local Government Natalie Hutchins has been advised to sack the City of Greater Geelong council, according to a newspaper report over the weekend.

The minister received the report of the independent commission of inquiry into governance and workplace culture in the council, led by former federal mandarin Terry Moran, last Thursday. It appears some of its contents leaked almost immediately, appearing in the Geelong Advertiser on Saturday.

According to the article, the inquiry found “dysfunctional leadership, conflict in the council, serious organisational failures and an endemic bullying culture” which backs up the findings of workplace culture review that was completed in October.

That review included a “workplace cultural health check” survey which heard 173 employees felt they had experienced bullying in the preceding year, and a culture review by former federal sex discrimination commissioner Susan Halliday.

Upon its release last year, Halliday commented:

“It is clear that a significant number of people have felt undervalued, unfairly treated and bullied. It is also acknowledged that in the past some have felt that they had no option other than to endure inappropriate conduct.

“This Culture Review process has acted as a circuit breaker and the organisation is now well positioned to move forward.”

The council, in Halliday’s view, “demonstrated a genuine interest in cultural change” and her review was “characterised by legitimate interest and candid engagement” from its staff:

“Most organisations would not provide the level of detail that CoGG promised, and has in good faith, made public. This is evidence of transparency and is an absolute confirmation that people have been heard. It is also a credible and determined step towards cultural improvement.”

But according to the Advertiser’s Mandy Squires, whose reporting prompted the scrutiny of the council last year, the commission of inquiry concluded that “in its current form, the council is unable to provide good and proper governance to the people of Geelong”.

The Mandarin‘s inquiries on Monday suggested the leak could only have come from within the government, most likely from the office of Minister Hutchins, who is expected to table the report in parliament when it resumes next week.

Geelong Mayor Darryn Lyons (pictured) aims to appear unconcerned about what might be among the findings and recommendations of the inquiry, stating that most of its findings apply to cultural issues that stretch back more than ten years before he was elected.

In a statement last year, Lyons welcomed the inquiry and said:

“These important topics deserve the utmost respect and attention, and my fellow Councillors and I will cooperate fully with the inquiry to ensure its findings truly reflect the current and future direction of this organisation.”

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