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MEET ROBERT DOBRZYNSKI

 

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Mr Robert Dobrzynski is the General Manager of Launceston City Council, which owns and operates the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery where I worked. He stepped into a long-running problem between long-term staff of the QVMAG and those trying to bring the institution up to date.

In his own words, "without examining the evidence" and "taking the allegations at face value", Mr Dobrzynski took a heavy-handed, vindictive, and unlawful approach against me and my supervisor, Mr Patrick Filmer-Sankey. His disciplinary actions and public humiliations were made wilfully contrary to natural justice, and the charges he used were later determined by Council's own lawyer to be unfounded.

Mr Filmer-Sankey and I are not the only ones who have been on the receiving end of Mr Dobrzynski's poor judgement. Since taking up the position in May 2010, he has been involved in a repeated public and private controversies, where his actions have been called into question as probably vindictive or unlawful.

Concerns about Management Probity: Mr Dobrzynski was for over seven years, the CEO of Moorabool Council in Victoria. Under his administration two Ombudsman reports were prepared on the Shire. The second found a series of significant defects which included...

    • Inappropriate Aldermanic involvement with Officers
    • A lack of transparency, with decisions being made in private
    • Poor corporate culture
    • A high staff turn-over

I fear that the treatment that my ex-Director and I are receiving mirrors the earlier behaviour that Mr Dobrzynski was criticised for at Moorabool.

 

Dr Lisa-ann GershwinWhat Dobrzynski did to me:

On 17 May 2010, Robert Dobrzynski took up the role as the new General Manager of the Launceston City Council. I don't know exactly who or what influenced him to react so vindictively -- a whole swag of rumours exist about Dobrzynski joining Alderman Norton on yachting trips, being censured for wrong-doing at his previous Council, and allegations of wrong-doing with other Launceston personnel and stakeholders, but it's hard to know what is true and what is false. What I do know is this:

Photo from the Launceston Examiner

  • I was racked up on numerous charges that were ultimately demonstrated by Council's own lawyer to be false in the first place (See the lawyer's findings);
  • With the first lot of charges in tatters, I was then hit with a second lot; and I suppose just for good measure, I was then targeted with a third lot (See my page on the Allegations);
  • I was stood down without pay for 16 weeks (the law only allows a maximum of 2 weeks);
  • my supervisor was sacked for allowing me to bully my staff, when in fact there was no evidence that I did and it was finally conceded by Council that I did not;
  • I was told that I could not return to the workplace because my Asperger's is a danger to the workplace, and no effort whatsoever was made to integrate me back in or deal with my staff's intolerance;
  • my personal property in my office was (and still is) withheld from me, and I am now being lied to about its existence;
  • I was denied access to Council resources such as the Employee Assistance Program and HR;
  • I was forbidden from setting foot on Council property or speaking to any Museum employee;
  • I was denied access to Centrelink support because Council delayed the paperwork;
  • Driven to penniless indigency, I was evicted from my home, my phone and internet were disconnected, and I was forced to seek food and other essentials from the City Mission;
  • Unable to get a fair go or even pay for medication, I was driven to the depths of despair, ending up in hospital several times;
  • I was sacked late in the day on 23rd December, moments before the close of business leading up to Christmas Eve. I was sacked because the employment relationship had broken down; however, Mr Dobrzynski still blamed me for bullying, despite his lawyer having cleared me of the charges.

For more information on Mr Dobrzynski's actions against me, see the following pages:

  • Overview of the whole sorry affair
  • Allegations against me - this was a witch-hunt
  • Discrimination - Mr Dobrzynski fired me for having Asperger's Syndrome
  • Natural Justice - Mr Dobrzynski wilfully deprived me and Mr Filmer-Sankey of Natural Justice
  • Costs to the Ratepayers

Mr Dobrzynski's History of Problems: Moorabool Shire Council

Prior to taking up his position as General Manager of Launceston City Council in May 2010, it became clear that Mr Dobrzynski had been involved in a scandal relating to poor governance by his previous employer, the Moorabool Shire Council in Victoria. This was reported by the Launceston Examiner on 12 March 2010 (Click here to retrieve this article).

From the Ombudsman’s Report to Parliament, it would appear that Mr Dobrzynski, as the CEO of Moorabool and thus the key Accountable Person, may have failed in his moral and ethical obligations to the citizens of Moorabool, as follows:

On Page 9 and 10, respectively, Mr Brouwer (the Victorian Ombudsman) wrote:

Dob clip 1


Dob clip 2

When asked for comment to the Launceston Examiner, Mayor van Zetten was reported to have said that "the report showed the Ombudsman's concerns were based more on the actions of the municipality's seven councillors than its management team" (Get the article here). Mayor van Zetten's statement is untrue. Of the 15 of matters of concern, three pertained to only the councillors, 7 pertained to only management, and 5 pertained to both. Fully 2/3 of the problems found by the Ombudsman pertained to the operational part of the Moorabool Shire Council for which Mr Robert Dobrzynski was responsible.

 

Ombudsman’s Recommendations

Problems

Councillors (Mayor responsible)

Operations (CEO responsible)

1

Councillors should not be assigned to informal working parties

Inappropriate interaction

X

 

2

Procedures related to Councillors briefings or forums do not include any provision for direction of officers

Inappropriate interaction

X

 

3

All reports and/or recommendations to Council be accompanied by all relevant officers’ and consultants’ reports

Accountability

X

X

4

Briefings be only used as a forum for clarification, information and advice and that all decisions to in any way modify, change or reject Council staff recommendations must be made at formal Council meetings

Transparency

X

 

5

All reports and recommendations for Councillors’ consideration and/or decision be signed off by one or more of the Executive prior to provision to Councillors

Transparency

X

X

6

The Shire review its contact arrangements to ensure that all circumstances requiring Councillor contact with Council officers are adequately managed

Inappropriate interaction

 X

X

7

The Shire regularly review delegations to ensure a balance is maintained between Councillors’ requirements and workload pressures on staff

Inappropriate interaction

 X

X

8

The Shire review its policies, practices and procedures for dealing with its clients to improve Council’s image and performance in responding to public requests

Accountability

 

X

9

The Shire examine its internal networking and communication practices and structures and its lines of authority and control to seek to remove obstacles to clear and open communication and to improve corporate culture and shared values

Corporate culture

 

X

10

The Shire consider the viability, practicality and cost-effectiveness of consolidating staff in the one location, especially bearing in mind inefficiencies and the cultural divide associated with current arrangements

Accountability

 

X

11

The Shire review its organisation to measure whether recommendations contained in the consultant’s report have been met and to ensure that continuous improvement is achieved

Transparency, Accountability

 

X

12

The Shire re-examine the roles and relationships between the Councillors, the CEO and staff, to ensure that responsibilities are clearly defined and understood

Inappropriate interaction

 X

X

13

The Shire review its governance policies and practices to ensure their consistency, transparency and implementation

Transparency

 

X

14

The Shire ensure version and change control procedures and processes are adopted and implemented for all its policies and procedures

Accountability

 

X

15

The Shire finalise its Code of Conduct with signing off by all parties

Accountability

 

X

 

TOTAL

 

8

15

 

Perhaps of greater importance than the untrue statement by Launceston's Mayor van Zetten, Mr Dobrzynski had been running the Moorabool Council for at least 5 years with these poor and unlawful practices, and continued to do so even after the Ombudsman's 2008 Report, until the Ombudsman further pressured Council to change their unlawful procedures in 2009. I believe that a correlation may be drawn between the poor management issues at Moorabool under Mr Dobrzynski and similar issues underlying my sacking at Launceston under Mr Dobrzynski, e.g., lack of transparency, decisions made in secrecy, refusal to comply with the law, lack of accountability, conflict of interest, and inappropriate Aldermanic involvement.

As CEO of Moorabool, Mr Dobrzynski bore the ultimate responsibility as the top Accountable Person at that Council, and as General Manager at Launceston, he bears the same top responsibility here. I believe that the pattern of wrong-doing between the two councils under Mr Dobrzynski's mananagement may constitute negligence, both on his part, and on the Launceston City Council for putting him into unbridled power, given his earlier problems.

Moorabool's refusal to comply with the law was no small matter. In protest of the Moorabool Shire Council's resistance to adopting the Recommendations by the Victorian Ombudsman, Moorabool's Cr Wendy Kendall resigned in April 2008. She stated that, "... it is a matter of principle... I need to uphold my values and principles and I don't believe I can do that in the chamber following a decision that was made last Wednesday." According to the newspaper, "The Courier understands the decision in question was a council vote to reject the recommendations of the Victorian Ombudsman about conflict of interest in the public sector." (Download The Courier's article here).

The internal and external strife caused by Moorabool's resistance to adopting sound government practices can be tracked in the large number of media reports available on the Internet, including:

  • Moorabool Councillor Wendy Kendall resigns on "matter of principle"...... web page
  • Shire clash probe - Moorabool Leader ...................................................web page
  • Ombudsman finds Moorabool Shire underperforming ..............................web page
  • MEDIA RELEASE From Jeanette Powell MP.........................................web page

 

Even their media release tries to spin, but cannot cover-up serious performance problems:

  • Moorabool Media release: Ombudsman's Report 2009 ................................

 

And it appears that there were serious financial management issues at Moorabool under Mr Dobrzynski:

  • Cash crisis: axe to swing in Moorabool - Melton Express Telegraph ........web page
  • Rates increase "more than 100 per cent" - ABC .....................................web page

 

There was even a scandal about the Moorabool Shire failing to take action over a period of years on repeated internal and external reports of animal cruelty at a local puppy farm:

  • Beremboke puppy farm 'shocking' - The Courier......................................web page
  • Moorabool council moves to close puppy farm - The Courier.....................web page
  • Puppy Farm - Shut it down - Radio 3AW ....................................web pageaudio

 

 

NOTE

I am not trying to imply that Robert Dobrzynski was cruel to animals, but I believe that the evidence demonstrates that he ran the Moorabool Shire Council in such a way that gross breaches of the Local Government Act, financial mismanagement, and animal cruelty were tolerated, or even perhaps just simply so normal in the scheme of things as to not even be noticed.

 


Other problems with Dobrzynski?

I have heard rumblings of numerous other peoples' and organisations' conflicts with Robert Dobrzynski. I don't know all the facts - far from it - but I present what I have been told here in the event that others may wish to verify or add more information, or even pick up the torch and do some investigative sniffing.

CITY PROM: In July 2010, a scandal arose over Launceston City Council's non-consultative changes to the contract of Cityprom, a promotional organisation largely funded by LCC. The scandal centred around a gag clause as a condition of funding (Download the media reports here). I have been told that this arose as the brain-child of Mr Dobrzynski in an Executive Management meeting with the Directors. In the mildest view, this might be considered controlling or heavy-handed. The extent to which Mr Dobrzynski had anything to do with the resignation a short time later of CityProm's Director, Ms Karen Stallard, is unclear.

COMMUNIQUES: I have been told that shortly after taking up the position as General Manager at Launceston, Mr Dobrzynski came under criticism by LCC staff for his policy of having staff communicate with him through written messages on forms marked "Communique". I was told that, in response to these concerns, Mr Dobrzynski changed the title on the top of the page to "Memo". I would imagine that it was not the name on the top of the form that was the matter of concern...

MUSEUM DUCTS: Early in 2011, a scandal broke in the media about unauthorised and unsightly building works at the Royal Park Art Gallery. Mr Dobrzynski claimed publicly that these works had been in the original plans and approved by the Heritage Council, which was untrue. In fact, the original plans had the ducts well concealed, through the painstaking efforts of the Museum Director (Mr Patrick Filmer-Sankey) and the City Architect (Mr Chris Zidak). The unsightly and unapproved changes were made after Mr Filmer-Sankey's and Mr Zidak's departure (Download the media stories about the debacle here).

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