WHO’S NEXT? Former Gympie council planner Mike Hartley now operates his own firm, PlanSmart Development Solutions, in Nash St.
WHO’S NEXT? Former Gympie council planner Mike Hartley now operates his own firm, PlanSmart Development Solutions, in Nash St. Patrick Woods

Gympie council a 'toxic' place to work?

HIGH priced lawyers, private detectives, Crime and Misconduct Commission reports, police investigations and an unresolved Supreme Court case...

All are parts of a claimed "toxic" work culture which some say could cost Gympie ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Most councillors deny it, if they comment at all, but former staff members say it has already cost a small fortune in legal fees, payouts to departing staff and private investigation expenses.

Sacked planning department administrator Jill Promnitz says the case has already cost a fortune and might well cost even more after her Supreme Court action for unlawful dismissal.

She strongly defended former planning director Michael Hartley, saying he was forced out of the council for defending her against two employee bullying accusations.

Councillors yesterday were given the chance to comment on claims by Mr Hartley's wife Loarni, who said her husband had been driven out of the council after "25 weeks of persecution" last year.

She claimed her husband had been the victim of a "relentless investigation process" which left him with little option but to resign.

Mr Hartley, who now operates a private planning consultancy in Gympie, did not comment yesterday, but a still-enraged Mrs Hartley certainly did.

She claimed council CEO Bernard Smith, backed by former mayor Ron Dyne, had convinced councillors "to restructure the senior staff into oblivion."

"One dedicated executive followed another, taking decades of local experience with them."

She said the council's use of a private investigator and high-priced solicitors to investigate staff had created a "toxic work environment" in which employees were "genuinely fearful of becoming the next target."

ACTING mayor Rae Gate yesterday made light of claims that councillors and staff were afraid to speak truthfully on their phones or computers for fear they were under surveillance.

She endorsed a statement by council CEO Bernard Smith on the use of a private investigator to probe a staff issue, in association with the CMC and the police.

"I would add on my own behalf that I have no fear of using either the phone or the computer," she said.

"Ditto for me too Arthur as per Rae's comments," said Cr Wayne Sachs.

No comment was received from Crs Larry Friske, Julie Walker, Mark McDonald or Tony Perrett.

Tony Perrett said he had stood aside from his council duties and could not lawfully comment as a councillor during his campaign for the state electorate of Gympie.

Cr McDonald is on sick leave with a potentially terminal illness.

Cr Mick Curran said those alleging covert surveillance of staff should have "a Bex and a lie down."

Cr Petersen told The Gympie Times he shared the concern and said: "I'm speaking to you on my personal phone (not the council's)."

Mrs Promnitz said her court case had cost her $40,000 and her solicitor estimated the council's representation would have cost much more.

She is now waiting on the Supreme Court's ruling on her case.

Gympie Times

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