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Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Accused manager to talk at bullying briefing

John Dragicevich was the subject of a complaint from four managers. Photo / Franklin Live
John Dragicevich was the subject of a complaint from four managers. Photo / Franklin Live

A senior Auckland Council manager is to meet the managers who report to him today to discuss his public outing as an alleged bully of six staff in the council's infrastructure and environmental services department.

The council's human resources director, Alan Brookbanks, and other senior human resources staff are expected to attend the meeting.

They will answer questions arising from revelations in the Weekend Herald about complaints over the behaviour and management style of John Dragicevich, the department boss.

The meeting will also try to find a way of communicating the issue to the 400 IES staff, at about 14 worksites, who manage stormwater, waste management and environmental services.

One IES manager said some good would come from having a public airing of the issues in the department.

Many staff had been unaware of the issues raised by the Weekend Herald.

A 14-page joint complaint against Mr Dragicevich by four managers in October last year led to an investigation by employment lawyer Penny Swarbrick, who found six cases in which his behaviour fitted the council's definition of bullying.

The council took "serious disciplinary action" against Mr Dragicevich, who kept his job.

After the release of a report by Ms Swarbrick in March, two of the four complainants resigned and are receiving payments totalling $300,000.

One of the complainants, who suffered mental stress, is on leave on full pay until January next year.

A senior council source said the Auckland Council could not be seen to be tolerating bullying. Some councillors wanted an assurance that the council was properly managing bullying issues, the source said.

Councillor Cathy Casey said she wanted answers from chief executive Doug McKay about the procedures for reporting bullying, counselling services available to staff and why Mr Dragicevich had kept his job.

"The person in the street is asking why would the people who blew the whistle be out of a job and the person complained about is still in a job," Dr Casey said.

Last night, Mr McKay said the disciplinary action the council took against Mr Dragicevich was confidential, but the executive knew what was expected from him.

Mr McKay refused to say what someone had to do to lose their council job for bullying. The council's harassment policy says bullying "will not be tolerated".

Mr McKay said the two complainants who left the council resigned in a "mutually agreed outcome".

"I know one of them was happy to leave the council and move to new challenges," he said.

"Yes, I approved the payments. I'm a very practical individual and my view was that making the payments was the right thing to do by the organisation and the two individuals who chose to leave."

Mr McKay would not comment on giving one of the complainants leave on full pay for six months, citing confidentiality.

It is understood Mr McKay will be questioned on the bullying case when he appears before the chief executive review subcommittee for a three-monthly performance review meeting on Wednesday.

The committee is chaired by Mayor Len Brown and includes deputy mayor Penny Hulse and councillors Chris Fletcher, Ann Hartley, Richard Northey and Penny Webster.

- NZ Herald

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