Like a dog with a bone, he's back


Grumpy Wagga Wagga builder Peter Hurst has had a win over Wagga Wagga City Council with the ADT ordering that the Council disclose details of their investigation of his 2010  complaint.

There is nothing wrong with complainants wanting to be satisfied their complaints were properly investigated and that the result of the investigation is transparent and consistent with the evidence provided. But, there are sometimes people in the community for whom no decision or action, other than the one they want, is ever acceptable.

In 2010 Peter Hurst made a broad range of allegations against two members of ours in the Planning Department. A long investigation by the Council's own Internal Auditor (so long that we filed a dispute to try to hurry it up) cleared the employees concerned and the subsequent industrial dispute set a new standard for protecting employees in the industry. No longer can councils ignore the protection of their employees’ professional reputations as part of their duty of care.

At the time, the complaint was part of a broad approach by developers unhappy with the Council requiring that they comply with conditions of consent and planning instruments and calling for the Council to be stripped of their planning powers. The Office of the Minister for Planning fuelled the flames but, again, when properly examined by the Department of Planning they were rejected and the Council retained its powers. Everyone should just get on with it.

But not Peter. An application under GIPA to have access to the full details of the investigation was rejected by the Council, then partially complied with but not entirely. Our members affected had no problem at all with the complainant seeing the details of the investigation but the Council did and, in the absence of an appeal, he will now get that access.

The irritation in this process is that Peter Hurst likes to be pretty secretive himself. The NSW Industrial Relations Commission had recommended that the Council obtain an apology from Peter Hurst for his allegations in the publicity surrounding them. In depaNews in August 2010 we said "this will be a measure of the man. We can hope he will be big enough to acknowledge his mistakes, apologise appropriately and get on with the job. We will see."

In response to the Council's request, local lawyers Walsh and Blair advised they were acting for Mr Hurst and "we are instructed that our client will apologise to council staff. The form of an apology will have to be the subject of agreement."

Great, he was clearly big enough to do the right thing, we drafted an apology for the Council which they found acceptable and then something got in the way of this reasonable solution. Hypocritically for a bloke interested in openness and transparency, he had his lawyers then advise the Council he had changed his mind. And the letter was marked confidential and not to be disclosed to any third party. Come on Peter, we’ll show you ours, if you show us yours.

So, while Mr Hurst wanted access to everything, he wasn't prepared to have his lawyer's letter shown to us, nor to the Industrial Relations Commission which had recommended he apologise to the employees he had wrongfully accused. Not even to the employees of the Council.

And all of this change of heart without any explanation at all and under the protection of confidentiality and privilege. Not very transparent.

Come on Peter, it's now 497 days since you agreed to apologise and we think you should either do so or disclose to us all why you changed your mind.

We have reset the clock on how many days have elapsed since his agreement to apologise and we will run it on our home page until he does.

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