‘Screaming’ councillor suspended for bullying two staff members

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A western suburbs councillor who bullied two staff members – including screaming at them over the phone and making belittling remarks about their work – was suspended for four months after being found to have engaged in serious misconduct and creating an unsafe workplace.

Wyndham City Councillor Jasmine Hill was suspended at a meeting on Monday night, following the tabling on Friday of a councillor conduct panel’s report into 18 allegations about her behaviour.

Wyndham councillor Jasmine Hill has been suspended over workplace bullying.Credit: Wyndham City Council

Eight councillors voted for her suspension and two, including Hill, abstained. The vote had no bearing on Hill’s suspension, which had already been determined by the state government-appointed panel.

The panel found Hill bullied two Wyndham staff members.

The two staff members, who gave evidence at a panel hearing, have since left the council, mainly due to Hill’s treatment of them, the report said.

Hill has shown no remorse and denies she engaged in bullying behaviour, according to the report.

“Clearly, staff of the council should not be shouted or screamed at. Further, Cr Hill has shown no remorse or understanding of her actions,” the report said.

Hill’s misconduct included screaming down the phone at a council staff member in a call that lasted about 15 minutes, over a briefing that Hill did not want to go ahead.

The councillor accused the staff member of undermining her and “setting her up”.

Councillor Josh Gilligan brought forward the original motion for an investigation.Credit: Jason South

Hill “raised her voice and yelled and screamed at her repeatedly … [and] became hysterical”, the conduct panel heard.

Another council worker was “screamed and shouted at … for about 39 minutes” in another phone call, after the council worker apologised for making an error in Hill’s diary.

The call left the staff member feeling flat and fragile for days, and questioning how he could be screamed at like that at his workplace.

The panel found Hill’s behaviour created a risk to staff health and safety.

Hill addressed the council meeting moments before her suspension, saying she wanted to “start my speech by forgiving those who tried to remove me from council”.

“To me, the panel result is unjust and the allegations were untrue,” she said.

The panel hearings were triggered by Wyndham councillor Josh Gilligan’s application.

Gilligan said a four-month suspension was inadequate and that Hill should be stood down as a councillor.

In a letter to Local Government Minister Melissa Horne, Gilligan wrote that Hill “continues to pose a serious and present danger to the health and safety of our council staff”.

“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.”

Hill wrote in response to the panel’s findings: “I acknowledge that I may sometimes use assertive language when communicating with members of council staff, but I do not shout or yell at them.”

A spokesperson for the state government said: “All councillors are expected to abide by the standards of conduct under the Local Government Act.”

“The Act sets out a clear framework for the management of councillor conduct issues.”

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