Wollondilly Council accused of bullying and harassment: grieving family calls for investigation

The grieving family of a council staff member, who took his own life in June, say he was bullied and harassed regularly at work.

Bargo’s David Wilson, known as Harry, was a 61-year-old a truck driver, plant operator and leading hand who worked at Wollondilly Council for 13 years.

Mr Wilson’s wife Deborah Wilson, his mother Margaret Summers and sister Margaret Shumack describe the council’s workplace culture as “toxic” and want it investigated.

“I believe after years of David standing up to management that the council broke him,” Mrs Wilson said.

“We hope someone is held accountable for the bullying because its not right.”

In the decade before his death, Mr Wilson lodged several formal complaints about bullying at work.

On Monday, June 4, Mr Wilson learnt in a meeting with council staff that his most recent complaint had been dismissed.

Ms Summers spoke to her son on the morning of the meeting.

“David sounded down and I asked him if he was okay,” she said. “He told me he was and I told him I loved him.”

After the meeting, Mr Wilson went home sick from work and took his own life.

United Services Union organiser Rudi Oppitz confirmed Mr Wilson lodged a complaint earlier this year.

“[The complaint] was investigated by council via an independent investigator,” Mr Oppitz said.

“David was not satisfied with the outcome of the investigation or the manner in which it was carried out.”

Mr Oppitz said other Wollondilly Council staff had also made complaints regarding bullying and harassment in the past.

Margaret Summers and Margaret Shumack

Margaret Summers and Margaret Shumack

The Advertiser asked the council two weeks ago to answer several questions about Mr Wilson’s death and if a culture of bullying existed at the council.

We received a statement last week which said: “We are continuing to provide direct and indirect support to everyone who is impacted due to this tragic loss of one of our own. David is dearly missed.

“Respecting the privacy of David Wilson’s family and his memory, we will not make comment on the circumstances of his death.”

The council’s statement also said: “Council does not condone bullying and harassment in any form, at any time, from anyone.

“We take these issues seriously and deal with them as they are reported to us, in line with our policies and procedures.”

Wollondilly Council confirmed in the statement it had engaged workplace lawyer Brook Pendlebury to evaluate “policies and systems” following a “two-year program of organisation transformation”.

“To make sure that we are delivering the safe and supportive workplace that we strive for, staff are being given the opportunity to contribute to the review process.

“The final report will be handed directly to the mayor and then given to the general manager for consideration and implementation.”

Mr Oppitz said the union, on behalf of its members, would monitor the investigation and its findings.

David Wilson

David Wilson

NSW Police are investigating Mr Wilson death.

Mrs Wilson said she understood police had taken a suicide note and recent diaries from Mr Wilson’s property.

She said the family would welcome a coronal inquiry into Mr Wilson’s death, however, that decision was likely to take months.

“We want an answer as to why he did this,” Mrs Shumack said.

“David was a gentleman and he was honest,” Mrs Wilson said.

“He was a good worker and took pride in doing a good job.

“We want a proper apology from the council after years of harassment.”

Mrs Wilson said her husband was often the employee who would act as a support person for other employees who made workplace complaints.

“David was the speaker for the other men,” she said.

Mrs Wilson said her husband chronicled his life in diaries and incidents of allegedly workplace harassment date back to 2008.

“Someone from Wollondilly Council was going around writing David’s work phone number on toilet doors,” Mrs Wilson said.

“They were insinuating David was gay.

“David reported it at the time and he had his work phone number changed.

“But his numbers were written on a board in the workshop. People continued to ring him on his work phone.”

Mrs Shumack said her brother was being treated for depression and he was seeing a psychologist and taking medication.

Mayor Judith Hannan said she expected the investigation would be concluded in two to three weeks.

“I am sure some of the report will be made public but I have no idea which parts until I read it,” she said. “People need to be patient.

“The loss of one of our own affects everyone whether you knew him directly or indirectly. It is very sad.

“Everyone needs to be kind to each other.”

If you or anyone you know needs help:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
  • MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
  • Headspace on 1800 650 890
  • QLife on 1800 184 527

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