On Monday 18 February I published a post titled ‘the City of Moreland has falsely accused me of defamation‘. It described the City of Moreland’s response to my previous criticism, published on 13 February, of their mismanagement of the recruitment process for a role I applied for. On 15 February, the City of Moreland responded to my first post by accusing me of defamation.

I emailed each councillor at 12.17am to inform them of my articles, to suggest that their accusation of defamation was not supported by the evidence, and to request that they apologise to me for making the unsubstantiated allegation.

Councillor John Kavanagh was the first to reply at 7.10am:

G’day Brian,

I think you should be far more careful with the comments you make on blogs and if similar comments were made about me I would certainly be taking legal action against you.

Regards

Cr. John Kavanagh
– Portfolio Councillor for Organisational Development and Urban Safety
– Chair of the Audit Committee

Kavanagh implies that legal action can be taken against someone simply for engaging in free speech. This is not true. He does not acknowledge that truth is an absolute defence against the accusation of defamation. I replied to that effect:

Hi John,

Truth is an absolute defence against defamation. You don’t seem to understand that.

Kavanagh’s response was not thought through. He had no time to examine evidence or consider facts before making a judgement. He simply assumed his organisation was in the right, and I was therefore in the wrong, and he responded accordingly.

Next to reply was the mayor, Councillor Oscar Yildiz at 9.44am:

Brian,

Thankyou very much for your email, I will look into your claims and make further enquiries and respond in due coarse (sic).

Do you have a contact number for me please?

Regards

Cr. Oscar Yildiz JP
Mayor
Moreland City Council

Yildiz’s reply was professional and courteous: he acknowledged the correspondence and stated that he would respond at a later date. I was satisfied with this and replied:

Hi Oscar,

Thanks for your response. I would prefer to maintain contact by email as that ensures a written record that cannot be contested.

Yours sincerely

No other councillors replied. Interminable bureaucracy is a constant in the governmental universe, so I was therefore not surprised to have received no further response by COB Thursday, 4 complete business days later, and I sent this email at 9.00pm:

Hi Oscar,

You’ve had 4 business days but I have not received a response from you. I would appreciate a response by the end of the week.

Yours sincerely

The response came at 9.07pm:

Hi Brian,

I have asked the CEO to respond and suggest you continue discussions with him. I should point out that this may take a few weeks as he is also making enquiries.

Regards

Of course I had not been notified of this process by either the mayor or the CEO, and I pointed this out in my response at 9.15pm:

Hi Oscar,

Please give me the CEO’s email so I can contact him directly. You do not seem to publish this on your website.

Would you have volunteered this information about passing the issue on to him if I had not asked? How long was I expected to wait for an answer?

Also, a few weeks? Are you being funny? You’re doing a remarkably good impersonation on an incompetent local government.

The mayor replied at 12.27am on Friday morning:

Brian,

I must say I don’t appreciate your sarcasm or tone in your email. I hope you appreciate that we receive countless emails, phone calls and requests, I responded to you immediately.

I can’t give you an exact time frame as to when the CEO will respond. He may tomorrow, next week or the week after.

Below is his email;

Regards

At this point I gave up. The issue was over. The council’s plan appeared to be to bore me to death. I didn’t respond and didn’t email the CEO. I had made the complaint to them; it was now their business to respond to me. If they chose not to do that, so be it.

I had already thought through how they might respond. I assumed that they would start by investigating the circumstances: someone would ask the Marketing and Communications Manager if the recruitment process had happened as I described: if yes, my post could not be considered defamatory in relation to the circumstances; if no, it could be considered so.

Someone may have consulted the HR manager to ask if changing the selection process in the middle of recruiting for a role could be considered unprofessional: if yes, my post could not be considered defamatory in relation to the opinion expressed to this effect; if no, it could be considered so.

Then someone would look at the situation as a whole and made a judgement. In my opinion, the likely outcome would be for the council to simply say ‘we’re not going to apologise to you and we consider the matter closed’. End of story. Go away and stop wasting our time.

That’s a simple process that could be achieved in about an hour. It’s a minor distraction from the everyday business of dumping recyclables into general rubbish heading for landfill. But the City of Moreland has instead embarked on a process that, according to their own estimation, is likely to take weeks.

What could possibly require such time? Surely the simple process outlined above could not take weeks to complete. I suspect that the council is not simply dealing with it internally.

As I indicated in my previous post, there is evidence to suggest that they appointed some IT security goons to investigate me, as someone from such a company viewed my profile on Linkedin in the days between the publication of my previous two posts.

I also consider it likely that the issue has been handed to lawyers to investigate. That will take time, and it will cost money. I apologise to my readers who are ratepayers in the City of Moreland, because your money is possibly being wasted on legal fees as you read this.

I will update the article if I receive further correspondence from them. Assuming it’s not over, I will need to consider my next move. Perhaps I could submit an FOI asking for all documentation about my complaint and request for an apology, which would include whether legal advice has been sought and how much that was likely to cost?

Ratepayers deserve to know if their money is being spent wisely…

corresponding with the City of Moreland

16 thoughts on “corresponding with the City of Moreland

  • 26 February 2013 at 8:33 am
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    Wow Brian, you certainly seem to have caused a storm in the councils tea cup. Given the circumstances it seems that you are more than qualified for the position, as you seem to be able to dance around their attempts (be they incompetent) to handle both network communications and to deal with this recruitment issue.

    It seems obvious to me that they do need to review their selection decisions, on the basis that “moving the goal posts” is unprofessional. Further to that, It seems the sage advice that one should keep their enemies close, could very well apply in this case. I definitely would like to have you on my side.

    Nonetheless, I would like to remind you in a broader sense that a kind and friendly manner in dealing with people (all people) would perhaps gain better outcomes for you. Do you treat wait staff in this manner? I can’t help wondering what you hope to inspire in others by your combative manner.
    With kind regards, Simo

    Reply
    • 26 February 2013 at 9:57 am
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      I always start from a polite and professional position. I treat people the way I wish to be treated. But once someone starts disrespecting me, they get the same in response. They’ve indicated that they think this is normal and acceptable behaviour. However, they never seem to think that they should treat people the way they want to be treated.

      Organisations often treat people badly and never experience any negative consequences from their actions. I’m teaching the City of Moreland that prospective employees should be treated with professional courtesy and what the consequences are if they fail to do that.

      Reply
  • 26 February 2013 at 12:54 pm
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    Thanks Brian for your perspective, and yes, I myself having worked for local government in human service have also experienced what I would kindly term as a lack of empathetic response.

    However it does not serve us/you (the greater good) to therefore stoop to their level of communication. Having read many of your posts and their responses, there appears to be a pattern in your style of communication, that whilst direct, lacks basic human empathy. I understand your annoyance at the organisation, but that organisation is made up of people, just like you and me. I may sound like a bleeding hearts social libertarian, but I believe that leading by example, and rising above others could actually serve you, better. This is not a competition to see who’s smartest. It’s far more effective to inspire change in others and organisations than it is too, beat them into submission with arguments. If only human beings where that logical.

    In the process of life long learning we can profit from the feedback of others, provided we understand, it’s not a competition we can tweak the way we operate for the better. Otherwise where stuck . Where all in this together, Brian and I believe it serves to show empathy regardless of others behavior. I just think you could be happier and make others happier (at least on this blog) if you addressed peoples behaviors rather than there persons.
    but that’s just my opinion. thanks for the blog, I really like your food write ups. Cheers

    Reply
    • 26 February 2013 at 2:01 pm
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      Why do you expect me to be nice and lead by example but not the City of Moreland? That’s discriminatory and hypocritical. The staff at the City of Moreland had no empathy for me. And I do focus on their behaviour, such as changing the rules of the recruitment process.

      Reply
      • 26 February 2013 at 11:26 pm
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        I think perhaps in this case it might just be because Simo follows your blog, and right here is the comment box affording an easy opportunity to give you feedback. Offering a criticism of your communication style doesn’t exclude one from having a similar criticism of the council and their staff.

        I’m pretty certain that anyone who would advise you to take the high road might also hold the view that EVERYONE should attempt to do the same. But in this instance you’ve kind of got a race to the bottom scenario – if everyone meets a perceived disrespectful interaction with disrespect and no one takes it upon themselves to set a better example, everyone ends up acting like complete arseholes and thinking the worst of one another.

        Logically, if it’s not your responsibility to guide their behaviour leading by example, it also can’t be your responsibility to guide it with rude taunts. I think you just quite like finding opportunities to be abrasive.

        For the record, I agree that Moreland apparently lack any professionalism in their handling of this process. I agree with the substance of your complaint!

        Reply
  • 26 February 2013 at 11:11 pm
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    It’s simple Brian, because I truly think your better than that. You are after all, calling them unprofessional and then using that as some kind of valid reason for you to behave in the same fashion. Reductio – Reductio

    Please entertain the idea of teaching (leading) by example. I don’t suffer fool easily myself, but I’m always aware that empathy and co-operation rather than competition is a much better, more efficient means of achieving positive outcomes, this raises both individual and social capitol rather than eroding it,

    If we think in humanist terms. We all have the right to human dignity as you so rightly point out, but with that right comes the reciprocal duty to bestow that on others

    I can’t help wondering whether in person, you are somehow softer towards others, than the person you present in you blogg. Perhaps this is generous projection on my part but like to think so. cheers

    Reply
    • 26 February 2013 at 11:29 pm
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      And how does the City of Moreland learn from my example if I politely go away and never talk to them again? They won’t notice. You’re being naive. To have any impact on them, I have to be noticed by them. Do you think I have their attention yet?

      Reply
  • 27 February 2013 at 10:38 am
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    Yes, I think you have an there attention, In the same way a bull in a china shop, has our attention. It’s just noisy, undignified and destructive.

    I did not suggest you should let the matter rest, I simply suggest these methods reduce your own sense worth and dignity. But surly you know that.

    Come on Brian, Ask yourself, given your reaction. would you employ someone like yourself. I’d be worried you might be grumpy to work with.

    I certainly wouldn’t want someone with an argumentative communication style representing my organisation, I want someone who can and will extend professional courtesy regardless of who their dealing with.

    But mostly I’d be concerned that your reflective practice skills, in my estimation appear to be a weakness. You talk, very well, but I wonder, do you really listen ?

    That’s just my slant on things, all the best from, me on this one, simo

    Reply
    • 27 February 2013 at 12:04 pm
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      You seem to have a blindness to what I have written. As previously explained, I always begin with politeness and professionalism. Again, why do you expect these values from me but not from others, like the City of Moreland? You seem to be supporting a ‘blame the victim’ and ‘shoot the messenger’ point of view. You’re missing the point of all this.

      Being nice does not automatically make other people treat you nicely. That’s naive. Standing up for yourself and your integrity on the other hand creates a sense of dignity and self-respect that too few people seem capable of achieving. You don’t have to tolerate being treated badly.

      Reply
  • 27 February 2013 at 1:07 pm
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    human dignity is not so much a birthright, magically bestowed upon you at birth.
    You gain dignity or a feeling dignity by acting in a dignified manner. It’s an internal feeling that is generated by you. No one can take that away from you, but you.

    Mostly when you project that respect out into the world people reflect it back, but sometime it is not reflected back. At this point you can choose to react, becoming indignant too, and loosing that sense of dignity in the process. Or we can, choose to feel that sense of dignity as a more stable internal state that is generated intentionally as a reflection of the notion that as we ourselves and humanity as a whole is becoming more civilized, not less.

    This my friend is how I define uncivilized behavior. (bogan, redneck if you like) it’s a lacks the awareness to properly understand the greater humanitarian project. (good)

    Some folk sure do demand all their rights but they fail to understand it’s a reciprocal arrangement, and thus they often fail to fulfill their own ethical brief.

    Some believe that competition is a natural selective state. But they fail to understand that the human ability to thrive is due to our advanced co-operative abilities, not our competitive ones.

    We no longer live in caves, we no longer need to fight for survival in this way. We can choose to be civilized human beings instead, The very notion, that human dignity can be cultivated both within and between us, is proof in itself that we as citizens are ready to afford it. Its your choice to be dignified or indignant. it cannot be taken from you by others. whats your bottom line? cheers

    Reply
    • 27 February 2013 at 1:12 pm
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      I’m not your friend. Spare me your naive hippy pop psychology.

      Reply
  • 27 February 2013 at 1:18 pm
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    I said my bit thanks, will let others have space here too.

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  • 27 February 2013 at 1:24 pm
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    Please could you stop wasting City of Moreland council dollars?

    You have some decent comments on your posts on this matter from Billy C (in particular), Simo and Lauren from those I’ve read, whose advice you’d do well to heed.

    The basis of your initial complaint seems to be that the City of Moreland HR procedures/ staff were in some way incompetent because they invited you to complete an additional task as part of the recruitment process, that had not previously been outlined as a step in said process. The reason given for this was quite rational as I understand it from your account. They had been overwhelmed by the number of respondents.

    As such, they gave you the opportunity to perform a task that strikes me as one that would be similar to tasks required of the job. It seems quite likely that the Online Communications Office for the council would have to come up with communiques that would appeal to a broad, diverse constituency (and thus perhaps uncontroversial and inoffensive in order to do so), that would be informative, and may well be based on a limited data source from a particular aspect of the council’s activities.

    Such opportunity therefore affords you an insight into the job itself, and allows you to show your skills. Furthermore, they’ve given you additional insight into the job on offer by providing you with statistics on how online the residents of the City of Moreland are.

    On the whole question of time saving of both council time and money and applicant time and effort, I’m thinking this is a pretty savvy approach.

    If a council bureaucrat had said objected to instituting this additional step in the process along the lines of ‘no, we promised we would interview all eligible candidates at the outset of the process and even though it will take an additional 4 weeks of our time and we will be without someone in position for an additional 4 weeks and someone who is currently a suitable candidate for this job will be without this job for another 4 weeks, we must stick to the original process’ then I would have been pretty disappointed.

    The additional assignment allowed for a bit of natural selection.

    And you obliged in exhibiting your unsuitability for the role. Having refused to accept the assignment as offered, you nonetheless chose to offer some responses to it further offering your withdrawal from the application process should the interviewers consider you too radical. I would say that telling them the requested article would be “boring and pointless” and that you assume they have “little experience” of hiring online experts, could be fairly uncontentiously be construed as a radical response. I would venture that you might have thought it a bit radical yourself.

    All in all though, haven’t they saved you time here? You were not required to go through the further planned recruitment steps that could have prolonged the whole process by weeks and thus saved you time preparing for an interview. And it would have been an interview for a job that you didn’t want, evidenced by the role-related assignment you were given that you found “boring and pointless”.

    So concerned are you about wasting time that you’ve then gone on to complain, unjustly, to various people at the council who have, at least in some cases, had the decency to handle your complaint fairly. Given the due process that will need to be followed in these matters there have doubtless been hours and hours of wasted Councillors’ time spent on following this up.

    They did you, and everyone else, a favour in speeding up the recruitment process. Sorry the job wasn’t what you hoped it would be, but better that you found that out earlier in the piece.

    I genuinely wish you the best of luck and would advise you to take the advice of the aforementioned posters with regards your interpersonal skills.

    p.s. I’m all for FOI requests that disclose nefarious government activity. In this case, if they have done what you suggest, it may have been that you might have been potentially considered a security risk to individual Councillors. You have been aggressive in your communications and pursued them individually on a completely irrational basis. If you don’t want to waste their time and our money further, your next steps should be to move on with your life in other areas.

    Reply
    • 27 February 2013 at 1:53 pm
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      I have not pursued Councillors individually. They are the elected leaders of the organisation and as such I contacted all of them together. Contacting elected local government representatives via publicly available contact details to request something cannot reasonably be interpreted as a ‘security risk to individual Councillors’. I have not pursued any of them individually other than in the context of their official elected capacities.

      Reply
      • 27 February 2013 at 2:14 pm
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        Sorry, I may have mixed up my Councillors with my CEO’s here.

        Did I misread the following from the correspondence with Oscar Yildiz ?

        “Please give me the CEO’s email so I can contact him directly. You do not seem to publish this on your website.”

        As far as I understand it, the CEO is not an elected representative.

        Not that I’m saying one shouldn’t try to contact the CEO of a Council but your were presenting as possibly a bit unhinged so maybe they were a bit concerned.

        Reply
        • 27 February 2013 at 2:16 pm
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          If you’ve read the Mayor’s email in that post you would know that he had passed my complaint on to the CEO and told me to talk to him. How was I supposed to do that without having his email address? Don’t blame me for the process that the Mayor established.

          Reply

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