A manager at Auckland Council has moved on following formal complaints she allegedly bullied members in her team.
Two former staff members told the Herald they were “bullied to no end” by the manager.
The pair described the culture as “toxic” to the Herald and one of them said they went on antidepressant drugs to deal with the stress.
The pair claimed another colleague was also bullied by the manager and left the department for another job at the council.
Governance director Phil Wilson said he was aware of three allegations of bullying and unreasonable behaviour between 2015 and 2019.
“On each occasion that an instance of bullying or unreasonable behaviour has been formally reported, it has been dealt with in the appropriate way.
“The allegations were mostly upheld and the appropriate action was taken as a consequence,” Wilson said.
Wilson would not name the manager involved, but said the woman no longer works at the council.
“We will not confirm details of either complainants or the person or persons who were complained about. We cannot comment on individual employment matters,” he said.
The Herald has sought comment from the woman.
Wilson said he believed the council is a safe place to work with the necessary resources and mechanisms in place for reporting and responding to allegations of bullying.
The bullying allegation comes after chief executive Jim Stabback launched an internal review into the council’s policies, processes and procedures around stress and mental wellbeing following the tragic deaths of two staff in December.
The two deaths are unrelated to each other or the manager who left.
Jenny Gargiulo, a principal environment specialist, died on December 1 amid claims she had been bullied and harassed.
The coroner is looking into her death, which a spokesman said was suspected to be self-inflicted.
A few days later, a member of the council leisure team lost his life in a similarly tragic way.
Gargiulo, who was responsible for implementing the council’s weed management plan that included the controversial use of the chemical weedkiller glyphosate, was believed to have come under a lot of pressure.
In a Facebook post, councillor Richard Hills said he knew Gargiulo put up with a lot from members of the public and elected members.
Wilson said council staff often come under pressure and intense criticism from the public.
“We have seen a steady increase in violence, harm and unacceptable behaviour directed towards our staff and elected representatives in recent years,” he said.
In mid-December, councillors received a report based on two staff surveys showing they had been struggling with the pressure of the post-lockdown work environment, with concerns about their stress levels and wellbeing.
In late 2019, the Herald broke the story of aggressive behaviour by a senior council officer. In that case allegations, made by a council whistleblower and confirmed by multiple sources, included an incident at an All Blacks test against France at Eden Park, an expletive-ridden after-hours phone call and mediation with a colleague.
Sources described the officer as “bombastic” and having an “aggressive tone and behaviour”.
The senior officer no longer works at the council.
Wilson said seven council staff lost their jobs for bullying between 2015 and 2019. A further 14 staff received written warnings and a further five received final written warnings, he said.
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