THE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST ME
On 23 July 2010, the Launceston City Council charged me with 13 counts of bullying and harassment, and stood me down from my employment. This sounds serious, but it was a farce. Unrinsed coffee cups, having a tattoo, using bad language in a conversational context, etc. Of the 13, nine weren't "investigated" during the "investigation", eight were shown to be false in the first place and dismissed, three were downgraded to a warning, and one, which was based on the cumulative guilt of the preceding 12, failed.
The investigative and disciplinary processes that Mr Dobrzynski used against me completely side-stepped the processes outlined in our Enterprise Agreement. The complaints against me were kept secret from me. I was unpaid for 16 weeks while the process continued. And I received zero warnings about my behaviour. Ever.
The 13 Allegations were developed by Mr Dobrzynski from the completed Sage Investigation Report, i.e., they did not exist before it, and therefore were not investigated in any legitimate sense. The 13 Allegations against me were an OUTCOME rather than the SUBJECT of the Sage Management Investigation.
On 25 October, presumably to save face on the earlier failed allegations, the Launceston City Council charged me with nine new counts of misconduct, and barred me from returning to work on the basis that my Asperger's behaviours were a danger to the workplace. The new charges were based on a private letter that I sent to family and friends in late August, begging for help while I was in the depths of despair. Four days later I retracted it. A week later I was admitted to hospital in a suicide attempt.
On 27 October, presumably for good measure, the Launceston City Council charged me with another new count of misconduct, on the basis of breaching Council's media policy by representing Council's position without prior permission of the General Manager. The alleged breach related to answers I gave to the Launceston Examiner about my recently-diagnosed Asperger's condition. There was no breach. First, the Museum media policy allows staff to conduct interviews without prior permission. Second, my personal health is hardly the domain of Council's position. This Allegation was false, and shown to be so.
So on 23 December 2010, the Launceston City Council terminated my employment, not on the basis of wrong-doing, but on the basis that the employment relationship had broken down irretrievably.
23 July 2010: THE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST ME
Without warning of any kind, I was charged with 13 counts of bullying and harassment and stood down on full pay for two weeks (Click here for the original document). In summary, these allegations were:
- 1. used bad language in the tea room
- 2. denied a staff member's leave application
- 3. displayed a tattoo on my left breast, which was considered sexual harassment
- 4. bullied another employee
- 5. ended a team meeting and asked one person to leave my office
- 6. referred to a staff member's threatening demeanor as "looking like a dog before it bites"
- 7. called a staff member a "rude bitch"
- 8. inappropriate sexual disclosure (e.g., called myself a whore), constituting sexual harassment
- 9. referred to my staff as ''ferals"
- 10. threatened insubordinate staff that I would reduce their pay
- 11. removed from supervision for safety reasons
- 12. breached the Museum Pest Management Policy
- 13. cumulative guilt of preceding 12 adds up to an unsafe working environment
They sound pretty bad as presented, but they were actually quite ridiculous with the facts of what really happened. See below (20 October) for the link to my formal response.
Of particular importance is the fact that the 13 Allegations against me were an OUTCOME rather than the SUBJECT of the Sage Management Investigation. The Investigation was meant to see whether bullying had taken place, and if so to what extent, and to try to ferret out substantiation once and for all for previous unsubstantiated whinges. The 13 Allegations were developed by Mr Dobrzynski from the completed Sage Investigation Report, i.e., they did not exist before it, and therefore were not investigated in any legitimate sense.
It is interesting to note that I was given 10 calendar days to explore my options and seek legal council, but only 5 working days to actually respond to the allegations, and only 3 working days to notify Council as to my decision to defend myself or resign.
It is also interesting to note that I was told the day before by Mr Jim Burden (Head of HR) that he couldn't see any reason why I would need the Union to come with me and that it was not an end point, it was merely an opportunity to answer some questions. However, in the span of a mere 8 minutes, I was stood down, denied access to the Sage Report containing the allegations, three times denied access to go back to my office to get my keys and wallet, and then walked out on. The Union had to negotiate with HR to get my housekeys and wallet back for me so that I could get home. This was far harsher and more pre-meditated than anything they were accusing me of.
20 October 2010: MY REPLY TO THE ALLEGATIONS
- The allegations as presented above make me sound pretty bad. But they were exaggerated and salacious interpretations of what really happened (Click here for my full reply). In summary:
- 1. bad language -- in the conversational sense, not any anyone or about anyone
- 2. leave application -- retrospective, denied according to policy
- 3. tattoo -- on upper left chest, plainly visible with everyday summer clothing
- 4. bullying -- equal exchange with another manager over allocation of my staff
- 5. team meeting was out of control; as chair, I ended it and asked all to leave my office
- 6. comment to upper management about a staff member's threatening demeanor
- 7. I didn't call anybody a rude bitch - complete fabrication
- 8. sexual disclosure -- ridiculous and bizarre, I absolutely did not call myself a whore
- 9. ferals -- referred to my staff's "feral behaviour" in a confidential mediation session
- 10. threatened pay reduction -- ridiculous, no power to do so, nonsensical
- 11. voluntary separation from staff twisted against me; also, it's an outcome, not an offense
- 12. unrinsed coffee cups -- this was farcical
- 13. cumulative guilt of preceding 12 is not a separate allegation
Furthermore, the Allegations all centre around my behaviours that are characteristic of people with Asperger's Syndrome, and discriminatory interpretations of them when viewed through the eyes of intolerance. See my page on Allegations and Asperger's for more information.
THESE ARE THE SUBSTANTIAL ALLEGATIONS, the ones that the Sage Report engendered, which had Patrick Filmer-Sankey fired and myself stood down. These Allegations have FAILED (click here to see Dockray's conclusions).
The SECOND and THIRD rounds of Allegations (see below) were the result of A) the way I was treated, and B) increasing flailing on Council's part to terminate my employment.
25 October 2010: SECOND ROUND OF ALLEGATIONS
Council acquired a private document that I had sent to family and friends, through apparently rather circuitous means. There were some 6-7 degrees of separation from my original recipients.
Five days after I finally answered the first round of Allegations from July, Council charged me with a second round of misconduct relating to nine parts of my private letter (Click here for the Second Round of Allegations). In summary:
- a. I sent an email to members of the public on 30 August
- b. the email was openly critical of Council with no proper or reasonable basis
- c. alleged improper behaviour of Aldermen and breaches of the Local Government Act
- d. alleged anti-Semitic behaviour by Aldermen Ian Norton and Annette Waddle
- e. critical of General Manager Robert Dobrzynski's performance
- f. highly critical of productivity and quality of work of my staff
- g. encouraged dissemination of the email
- h. issued retraction email on 3 September
- i. retraction email confirmed factual content of the first
See below (27 November) for my first reply, and further below (15 December) for my second reply.
27 October 2010: THIRD ROUND OF ALLEGATIONS
Just two days after receiving the second round of Allegations, I was served with yet a third round of Allegations. This time, Dobrzynski alleged that I had breached Council's Media Policy, by representing Council without explicit written approval, in responding to questions about my Asperger's Syndrome when rung by the Launceston Examiner reporter Alison Andrews (click here for the third round of Allegations).
See below (27 November) for my first reply, and further below (15 December) for my second reply.
17 November 2010: REPLY TO 2nd & 3rd ROUNDS OF ALLEGATIONS
My lawyer answered the 2nd and 3rd rounds of Allegations on my behalf.
- My "please help" letter was a private plea for help to friends and family, sent on my private email account, from my personal computer, from my own home, while I was stood down, and therefore Council had no jurisdiction over it.
- It was sent while I was in the depths of despair, retracted four days later, and 10 days later I was suicidal -- I was not in a good frame of mind!
- Council's access to my letters was by surreptitious means, and therefore inappropriate.
- I did not breach Council's Media Policy; the Policy pertains to Council staff representing Council's position about Council business, whereas I spoke about my personal medical condition and my own feelings, while stood down.
6-7 December 2010: FINDINGS ON ALL THREE SETS OF ALLEGATIONS
On 6 December, Mr Dobrzynski sent us his findings on all three sets of Allegations (click here for Mr Dobrzynski's findings); his letter referenced the "findings of fact" by Council's lawyer, Mr Chris Dockray from 25 November (but Dockray's findings were not attached). Obviously, Mr Dockray's "independence" is questionable, given that Dockray represents Council against me in the disciplinary action, and he also represents Allianz Insurance in my workers compensation claim and respresented Council in Patrick Filmer-Sankey's sacking.
On 7 December, we received Dockray's 'findings of fact' attachment (click here to get Mr Dockray's findings). Mr Dobrzynski took a very hard-line approach to Dockray's recommendations -- I summarise both in the table below.
The most important part, I believe, is that 8 of the original 13 allegations were found to be false, and the rest were dismissed or downgraded to a warning. Therefore, my Director, Mr Patrick Filmer-Sankey, should have never been sacked, and I should have never been stood down, deprived of pay, or publicly maligned.
|Alleg. 1: bad language: WARNING||First WARNING|
|Alleg. 2: leave application: FALSE||DISMISSED|
|Alleg. 3: tattoo: FALSE||DISMISSED|
|Alleg. 4: argument: up to 1st & final WARNING||FIRST & FINAL WARNING, re-training, apology (disregarded that it was never investigated)|
|Alleg. 5: team meeting: FALSE||DISMISSED|
|Alleg. 6: inappropriate comment: FALSE||DISMISSED|
|Alleg. 7: rude comment: FALSE||DISMISSED|
|Alleg. 8: sexual disclosure: FALSE||DISMISSED|
|Alleg. 9: ferals: FALSE||DISMISSED|
|Alleg. 10: disciplinary: up to 1st & final WARNING||FIRST & FINAL WARNING, re-training, apology (disregarded that it was investigated and dismissed by Council in 2009)|
|Alleg. 11: removed from supervision: FALSE||DISMISSED|
|Alleg. 12: coffee cups: WARNING||First WARNING|
|Alleg. 13: cumulative: DISMISSED||TERMINATION WITH NOTICE|
In light of the failure of the first lot of Allegations, the second and third lots were developed:
|Alleg. 14: Private letter: TERMINATION||TERMINATION WITHOUT NOTICE|
|Alleg. 15: Media Policy: TERMINATION||TERMINATION WITHOUT NOTICE|
The key differences between Mr Dockray's findings and Mr Dobrzynski's conclusions are:
- for Allegation 13, which was misconduct based on the cumulative guilt of the preceding 12, Mr Dockray dismissed it, but Mr Dobrzynski considered me to have been found guilty to warrant dismissal
- for Allegation 4, which was never investigated, Mr Dockray recommeded "up to a first and final warning", whereas Mr Dobrzynski concluded guilt sufficient for a first and final warning, re-training, and apology to the victim
- for Allegation 10, which was previously investigated by Allianz Insurance in 2009, found false, and accepted by Council as such, Mr Dockray recommeded "up to a first and final warning", whereas Mr Dobrzynski concluded guilt sufficient for a first and final warning, re-training, and apology to the victim
15 December 2010: MY REPLY TO FINDINGS, and SECOND REPLY TO 2nd AND 3rd ROUNDS OF ALLEGATIONS
I was invited by Council to make a submission regarding their findings. I elected to do so, and addressed the 2nd & 3rd rounds of Allegations as well (click here to get my submission).
My defense was impaired by Mr Dobrzynski's decision to terminate my access to my email account and electronic calendar about 24 hours before my submission was due, thus preventing me from accessing dates, facts, and other relevant details (click here to get that notice).
23 December 2010: TERMINATION OF EMPLOYMENT
Very late in the afternoon on the eve of Christmas Eve, I received notice of termination. In the end, despite having been found innocent of the charges, Mr Dobrzynski still considered me to be guilty anyway. Nonetheless, I was given 3 months notice, and paid out in lieu of notice (click here for my notice of termination).