Mayor did not bully staff

A review has found Byron Shire Council Mayor Jan Barham did not bully a council staff member.
A review has found Byron Shire Council Mayor Jan Barham did not bully a council staff member.

ALLEGATIONS Byron Shire Mayor Jan Barham bullied and intimidated a council staff member have not been upheld by an independent review.

The independent review was conducted by SINC solutions director Kath Roach into a phone conversation between Cr Barham and a staff member on January 21, 2011.

The staff member said Cr Barham was "abusing and extremely intimidating" during the conversation.

However in March 2011 the staff member retracted the statement and said Cr Barham's tone was not abusive, as "this seems to be too strong a term".

It is understood Cr Barham became upset when she learned Green Garage owner and former Byron United president Ed Ahern was to be Citizen of the Year.

The staff member also claimed Cr Barham then said she would "boycott" the Australia Day ceremony. However, Cr Barham rejects this.

Cr Barham told the reviewer she become "upset" and "started to cry" but at no time did she seek to intimidate the staff member.

Former Greens MLC Ian Cohen also heard the conversation on speaker phone while he was at Cr Barham's home and told the reviewer her voice was "strained" but she was "civil".

A complaint against Cr Barham was lodged with the council's general manager, Graeme Faulkner, on February 18, 2011.

The review found Cr Barham did not breach council's code of conduct and was not abusive to the staff member.

"I'm relieved the independent reviewer found a breach did not occur," Cr Barham said.

The complaint is one of three made by female staff members against the mayor in the past 18 months.

Two of those complaints were subsequently withdrawn.

During the review, Cr Barham complained to the department of Local Government against Mr Faulkner about the council's handling of the process.

Mr Faulkner was advised of the complaint against him in December 2011 and said he is concerned it was launched to intimidate him for referring the matter for investigation

"To this point I have not received a copy of the complaint, and I am still unaware of its substance," Mr Faulkner said.

"As indicated in the report to councillors about this matter, my concern about the complaint about me was with regard to its timing, as well as the lack of information provided to me about it."

"Despite this, I think it is important that where one of my staff feels that conduct in breach of the code has occurred, they have my confidence to make a complaint and have it independently investigated."

The report into both complaints will be presented to council on Thursday.

The review has cost ratepayers $18,279.10 to date.

Topics:  bully byron bay harassment jan barham mayor staff

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