Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Upset council staff defy bully gag order

Some Auckland Council staff  are defying a gagging order from chief executive Doug McKay. Photo / Dean Purcell
Some Auckland Council staff are defying a gagging order from chief executive Doug McKay. Photo / Dean Purcell

Some Auckland Council staff are defying a gagging order from chief executive Doug McKay and criticising senior leaders for supporting a high-ranking officer at the centre of serious bullying allegations.

Mr McKay yesterday emailed all staff, saying the correct process had been followed in the case of alleged bullying in the infrastructure and environmental services department.

He urged them not to talk to the media on the issue.

"It is disappointing that confidential information has been passed to a journalist, which undermines the credibility of our process and the organisation," Mr McKay told about 6000 staff.

The email was issued at about the same time as the head of the IES department, John Dragicevich, was meeting his managers over his outing in the Weekend Herald as an alleged bully of staff in the department.

Senior human resources staff also attended the meeting.

A 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, but he kept his job and has the "support" of Mr McKay.

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

Mr McKay said the two resigned in a "mutually agreed outcome".

The Herald has been sent dozens of messages from current and former council staff, many upset at the decision by Mr McKay, chief operating officer Patricia Reade and human resources director Alan Brookbanks to retain Mr Dragicevich and pay large sums to the complainants who resigned.

One IES manager yesterday said senior management were closing ranks and supporting Mr Dragicevich while asking staff to trust all was good.

"There has been lots of fob-off bull**** from management telling us we could have faith in the 'process' ... and a lecture about not talking to media," the manager said.

A former council staff member said there was a strong division between senior management and other council staff, many of whom had taken stress leave after pressure from the top.

"The Super City has brought some things together, but it has destroyed any positive working culture that the previous councils had," the former staffer said.

A workplace survey done for the council this year found only 35.9 per cent of staff in the IES department - headed by Mr Dragicevich - were motivated by senior leaders and 41.3 per cent trusted the senior leaders.

There were 259 respondents, or 79 per cent of IES staff.

- NZ Herald

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