Councillor Radburn apologises

Clearly there is a limit to how long even the most obstinate people can dig in and refuse to admit they were wrong. For Blayney Deputy Mayor Kevin "Big Kev" Radburn it was nine weeks.

It was nine weeks from his unacceptable behaviour at the 9 May meeting of Blayney Shire Council (where his observations, we believe breaching the Code of Conduct by attacking staff) and made after warnings by the Mayor until his letter to the General Manager on 19 July apologising and committing to trying to be good.

Amongst other things, Big Kev confessed:

"I now realise there may have been a better way of conveying my views to the meeting. It is obvious that the staff member has taken offence and that is a matter of regret to me. I also regret my words have been taken as an attack on the integrity of the employee concerned will stop I appreciate the efforts of staff and know we must all work together to provide good local government for Blayney Shire.

I am now better aware of my obligations in relation to Code of Conduct and staff interaction and I will be aware of those obligations in my future dealings with staff."

So, that's the way the dispute ends, not with a bang but a whimper.

But what a story. depa members had bans on for almost 8 weeks, one general manager found it all too much and walked, the first acting general manager didn't want to upset anyone (apart from locally by breaching an agreement the three directors made that noone would act in the job and in the broader context by walking away from the substantially agreed document with us during the course of the dispute), local HR showed little interest in the issue of protecting staff and we made a Code of Conduct complaint on the employee's behalf in the complaint to the Division of Local Government that drew an instant response.

The apology has been accepted by Paul O'Brien and a local agreement reached between the new acting general manager, Big Kev and Paul that nothing will would be said locally other than a brief media statement that the matter has been resolved.

But as you can see from Councillor Radburn's apology, he still doesn't get it. It wasn't just one staff member who took offence, it was all of our members of Blayney. And it was all of our members at Blayney who voted, in the absence of their maligned director, and decided to put the ban on and then later decided to take it off. Councillor Radburn didn’t make a deal with them to keep the true story quiet.

We note our appreciation of the important role played here by the Division of Local Government. Not only did they send a Senior Investigator to assist the councillors be, in the words of the Deputy Mayor, "better aware of my obligations in relation of the Code of Conduct and staff interaction and I will be aware of those obligations in my future dealings with staff", but the Senior Investigator sat at the Council meeting making sure that they did get it.

There are many lessons to be learned from this but here are three:

  • This is yet another successful dispute we’ve run to protect members against unreasonable attack. We've been doing it now for more than a decade and it builds on our success at Wagga Wagga last year and the critical and landmark Statement of the IRC reminding councils of how broadly their "duty of care" extends to employees - namely, to the protection of professional reputation.
  • There is a high expectation that the September Meeting of Blayney Council will adopt a policy on Duty of Care which has been drafted locally and which will go to the meeting with the support of the acting general manager and the three directors.
  • Critically, members by taking action like this showed that they won't be treated poorly and they won't sit back and allowable boofheads and their unacceptable behaviour go unchallenged.

Most importantly, it must make people who are not depa members wonder how they would deal with an issue like this. Go and work somewhere else?

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