FRANKSTON councillor Brian Cunial has declined the opportunity to deny allegations of “bullying” behaviour against council staff.
The Times revealed last week that WorkCover was called in to investigate the alleged bullying of a staff member in 2013 (‘Council ‘bullying cover up”, The Times 2/2/15).
The Times understands the female employee’s WorkCover claim for paid leave for time off work was approved.
When asked about Cr Cunial’s involvement in the WorkCover case, mayor Cr Sandra Mayer said “discussion of WorkCover matters is a serious breach of confidentiality and legislation”.
Calls and email correspondence to Cr Cunial, both before and after the publication of last week’s article, have received no response [Update: The Times received a statement from Cr Cunial on Wednesday 11 February after publication of this latest article. See full statement below].
Cr Cunial, a serving member of Victoria Police, seems to have exercised his right to silence about the WorkCover investigation.
The 54-year-old, Frankston mayor in 2012, dropped out of the race to win preselection as the Liberal Party candidate for Frankston early last year.
He told The Times he wanted “to spend more time with the family” and ruled out running for state parliament “for the time being”.
On the other side of politics, Labor’s initial candidate for Frankston, Helen Constas, was forced to step down in June last year after claims of a workplace bullying claim against her emerged.
The Times understands bullying claims between councillors have been rife in recent months and councillors who lodge a complaint with mayor Cr Mayer are immediately slapped with a bullying counter claim by the subject of the initial complaint.
Cr Mayer initially said there had been no official complaints of bullying brought to her attention by councillors, but “informal discussions” had occurred.
The mayor subsequently said “councillors have expressed concerns around behaviour”.
“I took their concerns seriously and held discussions with each, subsequently determining that there was no basis for a formal official complaint,” she said.
Last week The Times asked Frankston Council how many councillors and council staff had made bullying claims in the past 12 months. Council refused to release the information.
First published in the Frankston Times
Cr Brian Cunial’s statement received on Wednesday 11 February:
Media allegations on ‘bullying’
This statement is made in response to unsubstantiated and false comments made about me in the past two issues of the Frankston Times.
On 2 February 2015, the front page of the Frankston Times claimed that “WorkCover was called in to investigate the alleged bullying of a council staff member in 2013” and that “the person at the centre of the WorkCover investigation continues to ‘intimidate’ council staff”.
In its 9 February issue, on page 3, The Frankston Times named me – Councillor Brian Cunial – as the alleged bully, as well as publishing my photograph. Any reader could only assume that the original article referred to me.
The facts are these:
- In 2013, another councillor and I were interviewed by an insurance investigator in relation to a WorkCover claim by a council employee for anxiety and stress.
- Following that interview, I heard nothing more, including no allegations of bullying.
- It was made clear to me at the time that what was discussed at that interview was confidential and that I was unable to discuss it in any other forum. Therefore, I am unable to respond to media questions, much as I would like to do so.
- I have never been found guilty of bullying anyone.
It has been extremely distressing to me to have these false allegations made in the media.
The Frankston Times has unfairly tarnished my reputation by choosing to publish ‘hearsay’. On the allegation that I “continue to ‘intimidate’ council staff”, they have provided no evidence because there is none.
Council does not tolerate bullying, and nor do I or any of the other councillors.
I will seek legal advice on the matter.