By Christopher Harris
On June 22, Leong Lim, a City of Sydney ranger was found dead in his Waterloo home. Police have confirmed the cause of death was suicide. The matter was referred to the Glebe Coroner’s Court. A spokeswoman for the court said that the coroner is in the early stages of investigation and in cases of suicide there needs to be significant amount of layers to a death to warrant an inquest.
In May, Mr Lim, 62, sent an email to the City of Sydney CEO Monica Barone, Lord Mayor Clover Moore and other top managers complaining about a culture of bullying in the City’s ranger unit. According to the Daily Telegraph, Lim’s complaint centred around “parking rangers’ performance reviews being linked to how many infringement notices they issued — a breach of council policy; poorly trained work “co-ordinators” ordering managers to deliberately mark down employees’ performance; and a lack of consultation with staff.”
In response the CEO stated that Lim, a union delegate, was told he should go through the proper council channels in making a complaint.
Mr Lim blew the whistle on a culture within council that fostered bullying, corruption, nepotism and cronyism, which Councillor Edward Mandla says is responsible for his death.
The tragic death is the latest event in a string of complaints and enquiries about mental health within the City’s ranger division, and has sparked fresh debate about nepotism and bullying.
In 2012 the council brought in forensic accounting firm Warfield to investigate problems and complaints emanating from the ranger unit. The company’s website describes them as specialising in the investigation of “fraud and corruption and other unethical behaviour”. Warfield’s findings have been heavilly redacted by Council.
Ms. Barone rejected accusations that the City had not dealt with grievances but conceded that more could have been done.
“We acknowledged that although we had implemented many changes there was still room for improvement.”
Liberal Councillor Edward Mandla told City Hub he believes Mr Lim’s death is due to the mental health concerns that he flagged in his email to Ms Barone.
Mr Mandla said he had been on an “eight month crusade” to get to the bottom of the complaints that were coming from the Council’s ranger department, and investigate why seven million dollars was missing from revenue.
“I learnt that there was 16.1 sick days on average in 2013/ 2014, staff turnover is out of control, residents are complaining of under enforcement and parking infringement.”
“The way I look at it is this: because they pay employees more than 30 percent more than other councils, they say you should sit down, shut up and do exactly what you’re told.”
He said he believes the reduction in revenue is not because people are suddenly more compliant, but rather because not issuing fines is the only way for rangers to protest.
“If there is nothing to hide, why are they shying away from scrutiny? The Lord Mayor and CEO need to say we’re standing aside, and we’re bringing in the consultants and we will public information.”
Independent Councillor John Mant told City Hub he thought Clr Mandla’s attitude and behaviour around this issue are contrary to the normal separation of powers inherent in local government law.
“Using his apparent concern in council for the rangers and the death of a ranger, was not really about their welfare, but to support the attack that he makes against the Lord Mayor, as a political weapon.”
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