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‘Official conspired to damage Custodial Inspector’

CHRIS THOMSON

EXCLUSIVE: A veteran public servant and City of Stirling councillor considered to have conspired to damage and embarrass Western Australia’s prisons watchdog has lost an appeal to overturn her sacking from the state public service.

A written decision of the Public Service Appeal Board delivered on Wednesday reveals that in October 2011 Elizabeth Re, a senior staffer with the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services, sent emails to an officer of the Department of Corrective Services, the operations of which Ms Re’s agency was charged with having arm’s length oversight.

In one email, on October 6, 2011, Ms Re told the DCS officer that if she could think of a good Parliamentary question “that will make DCS look good and [the] Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services not then let me know and I will see who I can give it to”.

The Board considered that the October string of emails was perhaps the “high water mark” of Ms Re’s misconduct.

“In many respects, this is a remarkable [email] exchange,” the Board noted.

‘CONSPIRED TO DAMAGE AND EMBARRASS’

The Board considered the emails proved Ms Re had conspired to damage and embarrass the inspector, both in Parliament and in the media.

“This is the organisation that was paying Ms Re’s substantial salary,” the Board noted.

“It is difficult to imagine a more serious breach of the implied obligation of fidelity and good faith that Ms Re owed to her employer.

“This exchange must also be viewed in the context of the obvious necessity for there to be a professional and “arms’ length” relationship between the two organisations.

“This conduct alone, in our view, taken in isolation from all of the other acts of misconduct, would warrant in itself the employer summarily dismissing Ms Re for serious misconduct.”

CITY OF STIRLING COUNCILLOR

Ms Re had been a Western Australian public servant since 1982, and employed by the Office of the Inspector of Custodial Service since 2007.

She is on the governing council of the RAC, and is president of the WA branch of the Australian Local Government Women’s Association.

She is also a veteran councillor with Western Australia’s largest local council, the City of Stirling. Ms Re is running for re-election at the October 19 local council elections.

Before the Board, she did not dispute the emails were sent or that they constituted misconduct.

“The fact that Ms Re was a senior and experienced officer who also holds responsible positions in the community makes the course of conduct she engaged in all the more startling,” the Board noted.

Ms Re maintained the emails resulted from dissatisfaction with her work arrangements.

She claimed the conduct did not warrant dismissal, and that a lesser penalty such as a reprimand or a fine should have been imposed.

Ms Re was dismissed from her Level 6 position with the Office of the Inspector on December 21 last year. The sacking followed the discovery of many emails between she and the Department of Corrective Service officer between August 2009 and January 2012.

The Office argued that the emails inappropriately revealed the internal deliberation process of the Office, inappropriately criticised fellow staff and the inspector himself, revealed the contents of confidential documents to people outside the Office, and inappropriately criticised the Office.

A plea by Ms Rea to overturn her dismissal was rejected by the Board.

oneperth.com.au has contacted Ms Re for comment.

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