An employee applied to the Merit Protection Commissioner for review of sanctions of a reduction in salary and a reprimand.
The agency found the employee had sought to interfere with a staff selection process. The employee made inappropriate remarks about both a selection committee member and a candidate for a job. These remarks were made to another selection committee member. The remarks put that person in a difficult position—he could be perceived to be no longer independent or impartial. In the agency's view there were more appropriate avenues to raise such concerns, if they were of substance.
The Merit Protection Commissioner had regard to the employee's responses to the misconduct investigation. During the agency's investigation, the employee was apologetic, acknowledged his error and provided assurances that his behaviour would not be repeated. However, the employee's submissions to the Merit Protection Commissioner directly conflicted with his earlier acknowledgement that his actions were inappropriate. In the opinion of the Merit Protection Commissioner, the employee's submissions on review demonstrated that he believed he acted appropriately and should be praised rather than penalised for his behaviour. The Merit Protection Commissioner considered that the employee's responses to his agency were neither a sincere acknowledgement that his actions were inappropriate, nor an expression of remorse. This, together with the employee's lack of insight into his behaviour, indicated that the likelihood of recurrence of misconduct was very high.
The Australian Public Service Commission's publication Handling Misconduct notes that a reduction in salary can be used to reinforce the seriousness with which the employee's conduct is viewed, and that it may be appropriate where the employee's conduct does not indicate that he or she understands the seriousness of the breach they have committed. It also notes that a reprimand acts as both a mark of disapproval of past conduct and as a warning for the future. Having regard to all the relevant factors in this case, the Merit Protection Commissioner considered that a financial penalty and a reprimand were warranted and recommended that the agency confirm the sanctions of a reduction in salary and reprimand.