Ex-CEO delivers abuse claims
Ex-CEO delivers abuse claims

Former City of Albany chief executive Faileen James claims she has been left with a psychiatric illness as a result of her treatment at the hands of councillors and staff.

Ms James’ lawyers served an explosive 25-page statement of claim on 10 defendants last week as part of her Supreme Court action to seek damages over her dismissal from and treatment at the City.

The claim alleges Ms James was the victim of bullying, harassment and intimidation, and a conspiracy to get rid of her.

It also accuses several councillors of abusing their public office.

According to the document, Ms James is claiming Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington, deputy mayor Yvonne Attwell and councillors Robert Sutton and Ray Hammond engaged in threatening, bullying, harassing and intimidating behaviour towards her by sending intimidating emails, threatening to sack her and telling racist and sexist jokes in front of her.

Councillors Sutton, Hammond and Vince Calleja are accused of misfeasance of public office by conspiring to have her dismissed.

Staff members Keith Barnett and Robbie Monck, who both made claims of bullying against Ms James, are also named as having allegedly caused Ms James harm.

Acting City chief executive Linda Hill is accused of causing Ms James harm by bringing “unsubstantiated claims of poor performance” against Ms James to the mayor.

Ms James claims she now suffers depression and anxiety caused by the conduct of the defendants.

Mr Wellington said yesterday he was unable to comment in detail until receiving legal advice.

“I can assure the community that the City will be vigorously defending itself against the claims made by Ms James and we are confident of our defence to the allegations,” he said.

“No evidence has been provided to support the claims. Therefore, the allegations, at present, are unsubstantiated.”

Ms James began working at the City in February 2011 and left in June this year under contentious circumstances. In May, the Australian Services Union accused the City of deteriorating into a dysfunctional workplace where fear and harassment had become routine.

About 100 staff members attended the May council meeting waving anti-bullying placards, with one former staff member raising concerns about alleged inappropriate workplace behaviour by Ms James.

The same month, Albany MP Peter Watson told State Parliament about 140 City staff members had left their jobs since the start of 2011, sick leave had tripled and bullying complaints had been made.

Ms James said yesterday she always acted appropriately towards staff. “I was asked by council to clean up the City and had to make some difficult decisions, which were not popular with all staff – this is typical of any organisation going through rapid and substantial change,” she said.

She declined to state how much in damages she would be seeking from the City’s insurers but said the amount would be substantial.

The remainder of Ms James’ approximately $257,500-a-year contract would have been worth about $900,000. The City’s lawyers have until January 31 to file a defence, with mediation expected to occur in Albany after February 14.

Meanwhile, former City of Nedlands chief executive Graham Foster was appointed acting chief executive at a council meeting on Tuesday.

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