13 Aug, 2021

Cultural investigation

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At the City of Adelaide, we are fortunate to have a unique team of people who work together to carry out the business of Council, deliver essential services for our community, and create extraordinary experiences across our city.

The City of Adelaide takes very seriously our obligations under the Work Health and Safety Act 2012 and the Local Government Act 1999 and our commitment to foster a supportive and safe working environment for our people.

At its meeting on 14 April 2020, Council unanimously resolved:

That Council:

1. Recognises the valuable role the City of Adelaide administration plays in supporting Council Members.

2. Expresses concern about the impact the conduct and behaviours of some Council Members may have on the health and wellbeing of the Administration.

3. Request an urgent independent investigation to determine the extent of any impact and provide recommendations where appropriate.

In January 2021, in my capacity as Acting CEO, I received the findings and recommendations of the investigation and sought independent legal advice about what information could be shared in public.

City of Adelaide employees in leadership roles demonstrate resilience and competence in undertaking their duties, including their interactions with Council Members. Nonetheless, the investigation provided evidence that the unreasonable, serious and systemic nature of the conduct and behaviours of a minority of Council Members was, in their view, having an impact on their health, safety and wellbeing.

I took immediate action to ensure the work health safety and wellbeing for employees and assist in the immediate improvement to culture.

In March 2021 I outlined to Council the initial actions I would lead as Acting CEO, to realise positive change in the interrelationship between Council Members and employees. Working closely with the Lord Mayor, these initial actions have been completed or otherwise substantially progressed.

A key principle of the Code of Conduct for Council Members is that “Council members will work together constructively as a Council and will uphold the values of honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency, and in turn, foster community confidence and trust in Local Government.”

The Code makes clear that bullying and harassment is unacceptable and that Council Members must act in a reasonable, just, respectful, and non-discriminatory way when dealing with people.

What is important is that we all accept our collective responsibility to change the culture here at the City of Adelaide, embodying the City of Adelaide motto Ut Prosint Omnibus Conjuncti - United For The Common Good. If each Council Member acts respectfully, this will deliver an immediate improvement to our culture. Treating each other with respect, is what our community expects of us, and it is what we owe ourselves, and each other.

Council Members have now had the opportunity to view and discuss the results of the cultural investigation and to reflect and assess how their behaviour can impact on employees’ wellbeing.

On Wednesday evening, 11 August 2021, Council decided to release the EMA Legal Report with the public minutes, subject to the redaction of information that could identify employees, and the exclusion of the raw employee survey data. With this information now being made public, I look forward to Council Members and employees working productively together to deliver for and on behalf of our community.

Our people are all committed to getting on with delivering our strategic plan, ensuring Adelaide becomes the most liveable city in the world, and supporting City recovery through our Reignite Adelaide initiative.

Clare Mockler
Acting CEO

Lord Mayor’s Statement

I stand with the Acting CEO and my number one priority is to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of our employees.

What concerns me most is the impact the behaviour of a minority of Council Members is having on employees. Employees should not feel embarrassed, harassed or bullied in any shape or form. They should feel proud of all the work they do for our city and the community.

In any other organisation, this behaviour would not be tolerated. The current Code of Conduct for Council Members, as per the Local Government Act 1999, is ineffective in controlling and reprimanding this behaviour. That is why we have worked so hard to advocate for the Local Government Reforms and we look forward to those reforms, including the new behavioural panel, being in place from next year.

In the year since the investigation commenced, I have worked closely with the Acting CEO to put in place immediate and positive changes to improve the behaviour, conduct and engagement between Council Members and employees. This has included undertaking additional governance training with the incoming Deputy Lord Mayor and stamping out bad behaviour in committee and Council meetings.

My role as Lord Mayor, as the principal member of Council, is to provide leadership and guidance to the Council, an important responsibility that I take very seriously.

I encourage and fully support debate, differing views and opinions, that is what underpins our democratic process; however, we must ensure we establish and maintain respectful relations with employees and each other at all times.

Council Members must take responsibility for their own conduct and behaviour, and they must be mindful of the impact that their actions can have on others.

I will continue to work hard to lead and chair Council meetings effectively to ensure respectful debate and decision-making while ensuring the care and wellbeing of staff, Council Members and the community. All Councillors have a shared responsibility to lift their standards of behaviour. If each member behaved responsibly, intervention would not be necessary at all.

My hope is that after reading the report, Councillors will assess their own behaviour, take responsibility for their conduct, be mindful of the impact on others, and that our engagement be courteous and considerate for the remainder of this term and beyond.

As a Council, we are delivering an incredible amount of work to shape the future of our city and we are well on our way to delivering our Strategic Plan. We have stabilised our financial position and are continuing to deliver services, amenities, infrastructure and major projects that underpin a prosperous, liveable city for current and future generations of city ratepayers and many others to enjoy.

Sandy Verschoor
Lord Mayor

For more information

Matthew Halliwell