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Fury as “kangaroo court” suspends local councilor

December 12, 2023 8:00 am in by
Cr Jasmine Hill (Wyndham City Council)

A council panel has been described as a ‘kangaroo court’ after it suspended a Wyndham councilor based on unproven complaints from two former staff members.

Cr Jasmine Hill was on Monday night suspended for four months after the council employees accused her of abusing and “screaming” at them.

She is the first person to be penalised under the Victorian government’s new councilor conduct rules.

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The decision has outraged community members, many of whom attended the meeting in a show of support for Cr Hill.

Former state Liberal MP and Wyndham resident Andrew Elsbury said the allegations are difficult to believe.

“There are many things wrong with the Wyndham City Council,” Mr Elsbury told Geelong Broadcasters, “but Jasmine Hill isn’t one of them.

“Jasmine is a hard working councilor who has been accused of things that just don’t suit her way of doing things. It’s bizarre that it’s even got to the stage that it has.

“She’s very quietly spoken, she’s very committed to her work as a school teacher, but to be accused of verballing staff at council, that’s very hard to believe.”

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Mr Elsbury said the process lacked transparency and was extremely unfair.

“There is the barest amount of evidence that’s been put forward,” he said.

“You’ve had members of council staff come forward with accusations, but no proof. The report hasn’t been released, she didn’t know who had made the accusations, what those accusations contained and she didn’t know when those accusations were supposedly put forward.

“It’s very difficult to defend yourself when you’ve got one arm tied behind your back, in fact probably both arms tied behind your back, (and) when you’ve been given scant information about what you’re being accused of.”

The report found Cr Hill had bullied the staff members and shown no remorse.

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“Clearly, staff of the council should not be shouted or screamed at,” it said.

The hearings were convened following an application by controversial Wyndham Councillor Josh Gilligan, who later wrote to Local Government Minister Melissa Horne complaining that the suspension was insufficient.

In the letter Gilligan demanded his colleague be sacked.

“This ruling, shockingly, quantified that the penalty for bullying not just one public servant, but two, equates to a measly four-month suspension on the bench, or just two months per person,” he wrote.

“If a worker did what Ms Hill did in any worthy workplace in the state of Victoria, they’d get the sack. And rightly so.”

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In response to the panel’s findings Cr Hill wrote that she “may sometimes use assertive language” but did not yell or shout.

“Screaming is unprofessional, disrespectful, and counterproductive. It creates a hostile and unhealthy work environment that harms the well-being and performance of everyone involved.

“I value members of council staff and I always strive to maintain a positive and supportive relationship with them.”

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