Weird day today. The acting Director of Strategy, Community and Development of Snowy Valleys Council who was required to handle my request hung up on me mid-sentence as I was explaining the request. It is literally this guy’s job to talk to me. In the corporate structure of the Council, he is literally named the “Responsible Director”. He literally has a legal obligation, as a Public Officer under the Local Government Act 1993, and other NSW and Commonwealth laws, to handle this request in a satisfactory manner.
I was so shocked I called the front desk straight back in a blubber. “I need to talk to Phil Stone’s superior on this phone right now,” I said, and was connected to the General Manager’s assistant. Then I told her exactly what had happened, to make an official record before I forgot anything. When I got off the phone with Sue, I wrote everything out. Nobody can deny what they did. In my view, these people have already demonstrably and deliberately misled the public and their superiors in Council. There are so many breaches of law here I can’t even wrap my head around it. The story’s too long for me to recount right now. You’ll have to read it in the primary documents below.
Is this normal for Snowy Valleys shire?
What is going on?
I am sitting down directly following my phone conversation with Sue Ivill, personal assistant to the General Manager of SVC, at 12:48pm today 15 March 2019 (I dialled through the SVC front desk).
At 12:46pm today, 15 March 2019, Phil Stone, Acting Director of Strategy, Community and Development called me (0478417306) from his mobile number 0427618746. The duration of the call was 2m 30s.
Phil said that he had instructions to call me and invited me to speak. I began by saying that what happened on Monday was a disaster. Phil courteously and correctly clarified that the BDL meeting was on Wednesday, not Monday. (This refers to Batlow Development League meeting held at RSL on 13 March 2019). I continued and said that he needed to understand that lying to the BDL, then accusing me of lying when I caught him out, was not appropriate behaviour.
Phil said he didn’t know what I was talking about, and said that this now constituted a “charge .. or implication .. in slander and libel” so that he had sent the information to “the right place”, or “the correct authorities” or something to that effect. (This was referring to my emailed notes to Phil of 14 March 2019, in which I outlined the material facts of the previous evening’s events, and elucidated the tort, or wrong action, he did against me. see attached)
I replied, “Good, does that mean you have escalated it?”
He said “I have sent it to the … right place… It’s within our … organisation now.” I write the ellipses because Phil paused and stalled when delivering this sentence.
I double checked to confirm that he had escalated the matter. “So you have escalated it?” If true, this meant I could now talk to Sue Ivill and the GM about the matter. I had previously been keeping confidential for Phil’s benefit, to give him the opportunity to resolve the matter before his supervisors learnt of it.
Phil stalled again and said, “It’s within our … organisation now”.
He still had not squarely said that he’d escalated the matter or passed it to his superiors. Obviously I wanted to clarify whether or not the GM knew about it before breaking our confidentiality. Yet it sounded like he had just forwarded my emails to his mate, not to the GM. I said, “Because I need to talk to someone far more competent than you in this matter.” I understand why Phil took offence and apologise; I really meant I needed (and still need!) to talk to the person who is competent (i.e able, allowed, permitted, responsible, in the right place, correctly employed) to alter the Council’s spray schedule to omit the section of road I would like to maintain.
At this point Phil became annoyed and asked, “Where do you get off every day firing insults every minute?” and “Is there any specific request you have of me Kemble?”
I was surprised that he had lost his temper, because I did not immediately understand the insult (my mistake, sorry). I was also surprised because I thought the matter had just been escalated according to the published organisational structure. That would mean the GM.
Nevertheless, I recovered from my surprise and answered, “Yes”, and began to outline my two requests:
Firstly that Phil understand his conduct at Wednesday’s BDL meeting was not appropriate, and to offer something along the lines of an apology for defaming me.
Secondly, that he or someone competent read, understand and sign the work contract (see attached) which would allow me to maintain the verges of Yellowin road between my residence and the 50 sign (this is payment / consideration to SVC), and in exchange, SVC will use 15 minutes of work time to amend the spraying schedule to omit the area designated in the map I drew up to professional standard. I sent the contract to Phil, which only requires his signature, and the execution of the spray schedule amendment.
But Phil interrupted me before I could finish saying the second request. He said, “You know what, I have nothing further to say to you. Do not call me again.” and Phil hung up.
I was extremely flustered, extremely surprised, and immediately called the front office of SVC. I said, “Phil Stone has just hung up on me.” and some other flustered words describing very briefly and probably incoherently what happened. I then said, “I need Phil Stone’s superior on this phone right now.” The receptionist courteously and correctly replied that this was the GM, and checked whether he was in. The GM was not in. I said, “Is Sue available, Susan Ivill, who I believe is the PA to the GM?”, and the operator then connected me to Sue, at which point I related these material facts in a similar way, as best as I could recall them.
On the phone with Sue, I became concerned that I had been too harsh to Phil. I believe he is overworked and extremely stressed, unable to handle even a simple road verge maintenance matter. Phil completely melted down. I understand I can be a sticky citizen to work with, but I am quick to forgive everything as long as matters are dealt with correctly and appropriately, according to NSW law, norms of civil conduct, etc. Phil’s conduct since Wednesday is unprecedented, totally crazy, way off the charts, compared to any professional or corporate ethos and culture I have experienced.
I mean seriously when I say I think someone should check on Phil. Do it casually and just randomly ask him, “PHIL R U OK?” “How is work going today?” etc. Do not mention me. Maybe he is fine, that would be great. But to me, I’m pretty sure I just witnessed a total meltdown caused by months and months and months of work that is building up way above Phil’s competence in this role. So please, just check on him and that he is OK. And do not mention me. I texted Phil after talking to Sue, but my feeling is correct, there is nothing more I can do. Pastoral care of Phil is in your hands now; I officially designate you. See the text message exchange between me and Phil, attached.
FIRST MATTER REQUIRING ACTION/RESPONSE
Director of Strategy, Community and Development (DSCD) conduct
I would like to draw attention to the pauses in Phil’s speech as he told me the matter is “within … our organisation now” (or was it “within our … organisation?”) Regardless the location of the pause, the tone created was threatening. Who was the organisation? Not the Council? Why not say exactly to whom it’s been escalated? It felt like Phil was referring to a mafia boss who was going to come straighten me out. I was confused. I was just trying to decipher the messy organisational structure of SVC. I just wanted to fomally arrange the fact that i will be mowing our street verges now, so please stop spraying them with poison chemicals. Suddenly I was being implicated in some gang war among the old local families? What the hell?
And what of Keith Dawson’s response when I first raised the matter at the BDL meeting? “They did try to do that years ago, but it turned into some big battle with Monsanto”. Um…. what?
Even the worst organisation I’ve worked for, a cold-call charity fundraising call centre in Surry Hills, would probably have dismissed anyone for this level of rude, incompetent, insulting, unlawful, derogatory, harmful and unprofessional conduct. I mean anyone, even a casual call operator. Let a lone a Director!!!
Who did Phil send the matter to?
Is my family safe?
Because when I called the GM’s personal assistant, she’d heard nothing if it.
It beggars the imagination how on Earth these events have occurred. I am still pinching myself to check this is real.. honestly… I am totally floored by this. My colleagues from Columbia (or my Australian friend who went to Harvard), would probably not believe me if I told them this happened. This is why I have been so meticulous to record all these events as best I possibly can. It is unbelievable. And yet… true.
As you know there is a legal standard to which Council employees must work, outlined by the Local Government Act 1993. I understand that Phil was acting in his role as Acting Director of Strategy, Community and Development both at Wednesday’s BDL meeting, and during his phone conversation today. Therefore, he is bound by the SVC Code of Conduct, as well as specific reporting and community engagement requirements as outlined by the Local Government Act, and NSW and Commonwealth law, as well as the common law. In my view, the events of Wednesday and today indicate several serious breaches of these legal requirements by your current DSCD. I am pretty stunned because honestly after my first interaction with Phil, I was gratified and thought he was promising in the role.
To be clear, I have no intention of suing Phil for defamation. I “drew out” or explained the legal concept to make it easy to understand that Phil had made a boo boo and needs to say “Sorry”. Unfortunately my pastoral care was not sensitive enough and I seem to have hurt his feelings. I take this as feedback and acknowledge my behaviour has not been perfect. As a young man I did my best to navigate new and suprising situations with a minimum of damage to others, and the easiest possible way to achieve the original desired end result, which is…
SECOND MATTER REQUIRING ACTION/RESPONSE
Roadside verge spraying
I would like to opt my street out from broadscale glyophosate application, and perform the Council’s current maintenance duties myself. You will hire me as a private contractor (handling all my own insurance, compliance, tools, etc.) and remove the specified area from the Council’s spray schedule. This should be simple, as I believe you are required to have this spray schedule and only spray according to it. Furthermore, it saves Council’s time and materials, therefore offering a financial saving. I have drafted a work contract that should make the proposal clear (see attached)
The reason is that my fiancee and would like to have a baby and we do not want either my wife, the child’s foetus, or the child to be exposed to glyphosate, which has been shown to be harmful in many instances. There are too many references supporting this conclusion to provide here and now, but one good indicator is http://www.monsanto-tribunal.org/tribunal/judges. At that page you can read the qualifications and the verdict. Given this and many thousands upon thousands of weighty evidence, I have decided to protect my unborn child from glyphosate exposure.
For the record, the BDL voted unanimously in favour of my Recommendation that glyphosate spray activites be immediately ceased on the specified area of road (13 March 2019). Keith Dawson, former chair of BDL and highly respected senior man in the Batlow community, suggested that I mow the verge myself as a volunteer. I wholeheartedly agree, and intend to proceed with the blessing of Mr. Dawson as my authority.
However, I also require SVC to amend the spray schedule and remove the specified area of roadside. For your security, I have drafted a quick work contract between you and me that will formalise my responsibility for the maintenance tasks, and also constitute an undertaking from the Council signatory to make sure the spray schedule is amended.
I believe the matter is clear in the contract but if you have any other questions, please feel free to call me on 0478417306.
This has been written in one sitting directly after talking with Sue Ivill on the phone, and sent immediately. I have recalled all events truthfully to the best of my memory, which I believe is rather good.
Kemble Dawson Walker