Ballarat Council executives advanced the careers of personal associates and former colleagues

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Ballarat Council’s CEO and a Director gave personal associates and former colleagues preferential treatment in employment decisions, the Victorian Ombudsman has found.

Ombudsman Deborah Glass said her investigation began after eight whistle-blower complaints to her office, “first alleging a director was hiring his mates, then alleging his boss was hiring hers”.

”Council staff became genuinely concerned that senior officers were employing their friends, and it is a poor look for the council that such a view should flourish,” Ms Glass said.

Tabling her Investigation into alleged improper conduct by Executive Officers at Ballarat City Council in the Victorian Parliament today, Ms Glass said the Director, Infrastructure and Environment was found to have been improperly involved in recruiting three former colleagues to senior roles at the Council. He also changed a Position Description for a role to better suit one of them after HR raised concerns about their suitability for the original role.

While less serious, the CEO was involved in employment decisions regarding two staff, which were “unwise at best, and may have been improper”.

Ms Glass said not all of the allegations against the CEO and Director were substantiated.

“But senior leaders must lead by example. They set a culture in which demonstration and acceptance of poor practice can become the norm.

“Allegations of nepotism are damaging for many reasons, even if they are not substantiated,” Ms Glass said.

“They damage the individuals complained about, as well as those who were hired, who for no fault of their own may find the merits of their appointment called into question.

“They damage the reputation of the organisation, and it is not an overstatement that ultimately they damage public confidence in the integrity of our system of government.

“The excuses given for such breaches of hiring practices are almost invariably that the person hired was the best person for the job and it was in the interests of the business, usually because things needed to be done quickly.

“The assertion that those hired were the best people for the job cannot be tested, because process was not followed.”

Ms Glass said other Victorian council employees should heed the lessons of her investigation.

“Local government is claimed to be a small world where everyone knows each other,” Ms Glass said.

“All the more reason for them to be mindful of conflicts, actual or perceived, and to manage them appropriately.”

Read: Investigation into alleged improper conduct by Executive Officers at Ballarat City Council.

Please note:
Ms Glass will not be available for interview about this investigation, due to it being about the conduct of individuals and the requirement of parliamentary privilege.

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