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**13 January 2013 Update**

Here we are, approaching the two year anniversary of erecting this website. Just passed the two year anniversary of the day I got fired (23 December 2010). A week away from the two-and-a-half-year anniversary of when Council stood me down without notice (23 July 2010). So, I get asked a lot, where are Patrick and I now?

ME: I spent a year and a half living in homeless shelters trying to get my feet back under me. I battled depression that was so fierce that some days I truly doubted I would live to see the next. On doctors' advice, I began writing books. One is about to be published in May (Stung!: On Jellyfish Blooms and the Future of the Ocean), and another is nearing completion. I am still trying to find permanent full time employment. (click here for more info)

PATRICK: The saying goes that you can tell a person's true character by how they handle adversity. Despite having been attacked and vilified by the Launceston City Council, Patrick has remained committed to science. While busy with free-lance consulting, he nonetheless found time to draft proposals for improvements in coastal infrastructure, submissions for sustainable marine parks, and edits for my books and those of other authors. (click here for more info)

 

 

WHAT REALLY HAPPENED AT THE QVMAG

MY SIDE OF THE STORY Dr Lisa-ann Gershwin

This website, LauncestonCityScandal, was erected on Australia Day (26 January) 2011. I chose this day to launch the site for two deeply personal and important reasons:

  • I very proudly took my oath of Australian Citizenship in 2009. The person who administered my oath was none other than Mayor Albert van Zetten of Launceston City Council, the very same person who had the power to stop the unfair actions against me and my Director (Mr Patrick Filmer-Sankey), and chose instead to publicly commend the General Manager (Mr Robert Dobrzynski) and my staff for how they handled the matter.
  • A very significant part of my decision to become an Australian was due to the 'Fair Go' attitude that is deeply ingrained in the Australian culture. In this country, nobody is out to 'get something' from anyone, or to 'get something for nothing'. It is therefore with great irony that I reflect in these pages how my staff, who complained bitterly that I was "too American", have set into motion a cascade of events that are the absolute opposite of a 'Fair Go". Is this the 'fine print' of becoming an Australian?

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY -- ABOUT ME

In my 18 years of researching jellyfish on all continents except Antarctica, I have discovered over 160 new species, published 50 scientific papers, and been awarded a half million dollars in competitive research funding. I took up the position of Curator of Natural Sciences at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery in January 2009. The QVMAG is owned and operated by the Launceston City Council. I thought it would be my dream job.

I have been portrayed by my staff and by Launceston City Council as a bully and a harasser, a dangerous person, a witch. I am none of these things.

I am a productive and well established scientist who stepped into a toxic situation. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I suffer from Asperger's Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism. And unbeknownst to me at the time, the four staff that I stepped in to supervise didn't want me there and found my Aspergian behaviours simply intolerable in 'their' department.

It was a clash of cultures: the enthusiastic, successful scientist with the funny accent and unfamiliar behaviours, "versus" the long-suffering staff, defending the old guard no matter what the cost. I leave it to you to decide whether I am a witch or if something smelly happened at the Launceston City Council.

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY -- ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED

Much has been said and written about the scandal at the QVMAG. I was very publicly accused of bullying and harassment, and my supervisor, Mr Patrick Filmer-Sankey, was sacked for not having stopped me.

Since July 2010 when the story broke, I have remained largely silent, partly out of obligation as an employee hoping to be reinstated, partly out of fear of retribution, and partly out of inability through paralytic depression.

For the first time, this is my side of the story. It is my hope that by presenting the story through the original documents and own words of those involved, that the public and Ratepayers of Launceston can make up their own minds about What Really Happened at the QVMAG.

In a nutshell:

  • I was hired as an agent of change, as Curator and Head of Natural Sciences, into a department that had been dysfunctional and unproductive for more than a decade.
  • The previous four supervisors had been the subject of, and removed under, vehement complaint by the same four long-term part-time staff.
  • Fuelled by Aldermen with an axe to grind, and acting in righteous indignation over my Asperger's Syndrome behaviours, work came to a stand-still.
  • After a year of internal and external mediations, union involvement, and two resignations, an investigation was conducted to encourage my staff to substantiate their gripes.
  • The investigation through a consultancy company (Sage Management) sought to determine whether bullying and harassment had occurred in my department, and if so to what extent.
  • During the Investigation, a new General Manager, Mr Robert Dobrzynski, was hired. Aborting the processes of his predecessors, the investigation became a witch hunt, soliciting testimony against me from past colleagues and overseas informants.
  • From the completed Sage Report, Mr Dobrzynski developed 13 charges of bullying and harassment, for which I faced disciplinary action prior to any notice or right of reply.
  • Taking the complaints at face value, Dobrzynski stood me down without pay for 16 weeks, sacked the Director, and refused us access to the "evidence" being used against us.
  • The bullying and harassment charges against me collapsed, but I was fired anyway, just hours before Christmas Eve.
  • Although I have already been sacked, I have yet to receive any formal complaints made by my staff, any warnings for any of the complaints, or access to the Sage Report (i.e., the "evidence" and "proof" of my alleged guilt).

This is a story of self-interested politics, discrimination, vendettas, and secrecy. This is a story about a 'Fair Go' gone unfairly wrong. Click on the links below or to the right to find out more...

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