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:
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.
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:
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:
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?
Cr. Oscar Yildiz JP
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:
Thanks for your response. I would prefer to maintain contact by email as that ensures a written record that cannot be contested.
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:
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.
The response came at 9.07pm:
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.
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:
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:
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;
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…