The Blue Mountains Council has begun legal action against Ray Hadley for what it claims are false accusations about asbestos removal.
A media release from the council says Hadley “used the bully pulpit of his radio station to attack the Council and its personnel.”
The council is defending its staff from Hadley’s claims, saying: “There are times when a public body must make a strong defence of its people and itself. This is such a time.”
Hadley rejects those claims and says the council misled an investigation into the issue.
“I’ve got proof of all this, but no one asked me to provide it… furthermore I have whistle blowers who are willing to testify in court…. I reject any assertion that my statements were inaccurate.”
Hadley has been following the issue of inadequate asbestos removal in the Blue Mountains council area for more than a year in a series of reports about the issue.
Last week he made two broadcasts (10.51am & 11.08am, Thursday 16 May 2019) in which he reacted to the First Interim Report of the Public Inquiry into the Blue Mountains City Council.
A media statement from the council seeks to rebut Hadley’s claims. It says:
The Public Inquiry’s First Interim Report—which was based on a thorough review of extensive documentation and on sworn testimony from several witnesses—held, in respect of the matters that it covered, that the Council’s conduct, through the process of engaging Clyde & Co solicitors (Mr Michael Tooma) and McCullough Robertson solicitors to conduct their respective investigations, was, in all the circumstances, prudent and appropriate.
The first Interim Report also concluded that while Mr Tooma had no conflict of interest, the Council’s response to the allegations that a conflict did exist, and the response of the governing body to those allegations, was reasonable and appropriate. The report concluded that no aspect of the matters raised in Term of Reference 4 involved conduct or action that was not in accordance with the obligations and duties imposed on the Council and on the governing body under the relevant provisions of the Local Government Act.
Mr Hadley knew that the Inquiry was being held. He claims to have “proof” of his allegations. He claims that he has whistle-blowers. He, like everyone else, had the opportunity to assist the Inquiry by providing information. If he had a genuine commitment to the public interest, he would have done so. But he chose not to do so.
Now Mr Hadley complains that the Commissioner reached wrong conclusions. In fact, the Commissioner was right, and his findings were based on the kind of thorough evidentiary process that Mr Hadley does not undertake.
The Inquiry has found that various allegations previously made by Mr Hadley were wrong, including his foundational—but false—allegation that the Council was wrong to appoint Clyde & Co and Mr Michael Tooma as an independent investigator because Mr Tooma had a conflict of interest arising from his acquaintance with Mr Mark Mulligan. As the Inquiry found, it was proper of the Council to appoint Mr Tooma, and he did not have a conflict of interest.
Having failed to assist the Inquiry, and now being unwilling to accept the umpire’s finding, Mr Hadley, in his 16 May broadcasts, has—as seems to be his wont—used the bully pulpit of his radio station to attack the Council and its personnel instead.
Mr Hadley has claimed:
The only information I ever reported incorrectly was that Mark Mulligan was the Chief Safety Officer instead of the Acting Director, Service Delivery.
That statement was false. As the Inquiry demonstrated, Mr Hadley incorrectly reported on many matters. After the Interim Report listed ten allegations by Mr Hadley, the report states:
As will become clear from the findings that follow, except for [one matter listed in] (h) above, the assertions made by Mr Hadley were not factually accurate …
Mr Hadley—in quibbling with the finding that Mr Tooma had no conflict of interest—said this about Mr Mulligan’s role in Council’s recruitment of an Asbestos Response Team (ART) in December 2017:
As Acting Service Delivery Director in 2017 Mark Mulligan . . . was the convenor of the recruitment panel and presided over and made the offers of employment.
That statement was false. Although Mr Mulligan was one member of the panel, he was not its convenor, he did not preside over the making of employment offers, and he did not make the offers of employment. The statement was also irrelevant, for the recruitment of the ART had nothing to do with Mr Tooma’s investigation. And the ART was not part of the Service Delivery Directorate or under Mr Mulligan’s management.
Mr Hadley then proceeded to say:
This is the same asbestos response team that had members . . . not deemed competent in line with the SafeWork NSW regulations.
Mr Hadley doesn’t say who deemed the workers “not . . . competent”. SafeWork has not made that allegation. Mr Hadley is not qualified to make that assessment. Mr Hadley’s claim is false.
Mr Hadley also said:
This . . . same asbestos response team . . . went on in 2018 to make errors with work at Katoomba depot that resulted in 13 staff being exposed to friable asbestos from poorly controlled works.
This statement is also false, and in several ways. Most importantly, the ART did not do the asbestos removal work at the Katoomba depot in 2018 to which Mr Hadley is referring: an asbestos removal company licensed by SafeWork carried out that work. And the ART did not issue the relevant clearance certificate following completion of the work: a private contractor, certified by SafeWork, issued the certificate.
In the context of referring to this occasion at Katoomba, Mr Hadley makes the further claim:
Tooma investigated the Council’s incident.
That statement was false. Mr Tooma was investigating matters in 2012 to 2017, not matters in 2018—and not this matter.
Mr Hadley’s most serious allegation on 16 May was this:
…the General Manager of Council and Megan TeBay have misled the Commissioner . . . [b]ecause his findings heavily rely on the fact that Mulligan had nothing to do with asbestos, which is just a lie.
That statement was false—and it is scandalously so. Neither the General Manager nor Ms TeBay misled the Commissioner. Indeed, Ms TeBay did not even give evidence before the Commissioner, nor did she otherwise make any communication to the Commissioner. The General Manager’s evidence was truthful, accurate and supported by extensive documentation. There was no lie—except for Mr Hadley’s reckless disregard for the truth.
Mr Hadley claims:
There’s no protection in Council . . . for whistle blowers . . . .
That claim is wrong. As Mr Hadley knows, there are statutory protections for whistleblowers. The Council provides the proper protections.
The position Mr Hadley occupies as a radio broadcaster is one of great privilege and responsibility. He has not acted in accordance with that privilege and responsibility, even when a Public Inquiry, acting on evidence, has exposed his many false and unfounded allegations.
Mr Hadley does not like having his false allegations exposed for what they are and his response, in making further false allegations against the Council and its personnel, is reprehensible.
Legal action is continuing.
Picture: Blue Mountains Council Facebook page.