Code of Conduct sanction decision—reduction in classification of an office manager

An agency reduced an office manager in classification from an Executive Level 2 to an APS6 as a result of finding that the manager had breached four sections of the Code of Conduct including sections 13(1)—honesty and integrity, 13(3)—respect and courtesy, and 13(7)—conflicts of interest. The agency had evidence that staff in the office were unhappy and received allegations that the office manager was in a relationship with one of the team leaders and was bullying and harassing staff.

Among other things, the manager was found to have lied to a more senior manager about his relationship with the team leader; treated staff in a rude, dismissive and threatening manner; sworn at staff; made derogatory comments about their appearance; and racist comments to an indigenous colleague. The manager was also found to have failed to declare a conflict of interest by failing to declare that a relationship had existed between himself and the team leader.

The Merit Protection Commissioner found that the manager's proven behaviours were very serious and that by not being truthful about his relationship with the team leader, the manager had breached the trust of his employer. There was evidence that the manager's inappropriate conduct towards other employees had occurred over a long period of time and was a pattern of behaviour. These factors, together with the offensive nature of comments the manager directed at other employees, meant that the manager's behaviour was of a level of seriousness that might warrant termination of employment. The Merit Protection Commissioner noted that there were mitigating circumstances, including stressors in the manager's personal life, which suggested a reduction in classification was the appropriate sanction in the circumstances, noting that the employee could no longer be trusted in a leadership role at the Executive level.