She quit without explanation - now new light’s been shed on the resignation of Tasmania’s first Integrity Commission (CEO).
Barbara Etter left her post at the year-old Integrity Commission last month.
The former Western Australian (Assistant) Police Commissioner made her exit while on leave, and ever since, official sources in government have been tight-lipped about her departure.
Airlie Ward joins us: Tonight, you can reveal that Barbara Etter has filed a claim for damages against the State of Tasmania, claiming she was forced to resign.
In a lengthy 10-page statement of claim, the former chief of Tasmania’s anti-corruption watchdog is seeking damages, interest and costs from the state, claiming that the state breached her employment contract.
Mrs Etter claims the state breached her employment contract by undermining her ability to do her job by, among other things, encouraging others including employees at the Integrity Commission to reject her authority and expertise.
Mrs Etter says she was repeatedly frustrated in her attempts to perform her responsibilities and that she was unfairly ambushed with informal performance appraisals which she claimed breached that employment contract.
(Does this explain the sudden nature of her resignation?)
Well, in the document filed with the court, Mrs Etter says she was asked to resign or face an assessment process that - quote - “could be fatal”, contrary, again, to the terms of her contract.
As a result, Mrs Etter is alleging that her reputation has been damaged, as have her career prospects.
So, a strange ending to the first corruption fighter hired by the state government to boost public trust.
• What Barbara Etter told ABC Stateline last year
Interview with Tasmania’s Integrity Commission’s Chief Executive
Source: Stateline Tasmania
Published: Friday, July 2, 2010 9:15 AEST
Expires: Thursday, September 30, 2010 9:15 AEST
The opening of Tasmania’s new Integrity Commission has been put back by three months but its Commissioner Barbara Etter is eager to get started.
ANGELA ROSS, PRESENTER: Tasmania’s newly formed Integrity Commission has hit the headlines again this week this time because its start-up date was postponed.
The Government had been promising it would take complaints by the 1st of July now it will be October.
A Chief Commissioner still hasn’t been found and a board hasn’t been established.
Martin Cuddihy spoke with The Commission’s Chief Executive Barbara Etter about her role with the new body.
MARTIN CUDDIHY, REPORTER: Barbara Etter thanks for joining Stateline.
BARBARA ETTER, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, INTEGRITY COMMISSION: Thanks Martin.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Tell me about your background with the police service in Western Australia.
BARBARA ETTER: Well I’ve actually had a career that’s spanned the country. Five and a half, six years with WA police but also with the NSW police, the Northern Territory police and as the director of the Australasian Centre for Policing Research.
So, about 30 years worth of experience.
So, I’ve headed up two professional standards portfolios, both in WA and the NT and more recently three and half years in charge of corruption prevention and investigation with the WA police, which required me to work closely with the CCC.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: What do you think is the aim of the Integrity Commission in Tasmania?
BARBARAETTER: The primary thrust is really one of prevention, education and advice, but clearly there will be a need for complaint assessment and investigation as well.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Now this role won’t be an easy one, why did you decide to take it on?
BARBARA ETTER: I obviously like a challenge but I think I’ve got ideal qualifications and experience to make a difference and to help install that public trust and confidence that is required here in Tasmania.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: You mentioned that public trust and confidence, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong there seems to be an impression in the Tasmanian community that corruption does exist at some levels. What are your initial thoughts?
BARBARA ETTER: Well I think corruption exists in any profession or organisation to a certain extent. Lawyers, doctors, they’ve all been tainted with misconduct and corruption.
I’m certainly coming to Tasmania with a very open mind and I’m in a sort of an intelligence information gathering phase at the present time.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Is it your impression though that the community does feel that there is some level of corruption here?
BARBARA ETTER: Well I don’t think they would have established an Integrity Commission if they weren’t concerned about the level of trust and confidence within the community.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Do you think it will be easy to allay those concerns?
BARBARA ETTER: I think it will be a challenge but certainly one that I’m very keen, I’m very keen on community engagement, getting the message out, increasing ethical awareness, ethical sensitivity.
But also it’s not a matter of picking off individuals one by one, it’s a matter of looking at some of the public institutions and attacking systems and culture.
It’s not generally just a bad apple, there’s some reason why corruption’s been allowed to flourish.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: You mentioned there what do you mean by that?
BARBARA ETTER: Oh well, organisational reviews, for example, is one idea I have at the present time. Where we go in and using methodologies that have been used elsewhere, check out the ethical health of an organisation and the culture and the systems.
What ethics training do they have? How are they handling complaints and issues of misconduct or external complaints?
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Now the commission has a broad range of powers including search and seizure of documents and computers and also surveillance and listening devices.
How will this work be carried out?
BARBARA ETTER: Well we’ll be getting skilled and experienced investigators to work and obviously we’ll have to work within the legislative framework and take a cautious and considered approach to the use of those sorts of powers.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Do you suspect that they’ll be used widely?
BARBARA ETTER: Ah, a bit early to tell, depends on what comes through the door when we open soon and also what own motion investigations we may take on.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: What was your reaction when you found out and I presume it was this week that the commission won’t receive those complaints until October?
BARBARA ETTER: I can understand the need to take a bit of time to make sure everything is in place that we can deal with those complaints properly when they do arrive at the commission.
It’s not just a matter of saying, ‘We’re open for business.’ The act says that the complaint has to be made in writing in a form approved by the board and of course that has not been done yet, nor has the complaint register been approved by the board and you need to have popper, proper policies and procedures in place and staff who are trained in complaint assessment.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: But what was your personal reaction when you heard that it would be delayed by several months?
BARBARA ETTER: I understood the situation entirely, I’m glad actually that I’ve got a bit of time to recruit the right staff and get everything in place, get the premises finished, so that we can be fully functional on 1 October.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: You’re looking forward to the point when that happens I presume?
BARBARA ETTER: Yes, very much so.
MARTIN CUDDIHY: Barbara Etter thank you for joining the program.
• Read for yourself. All about the TIC’s role: HERE
First published: 2011-11-21 06:23 PM
• WHISTLEBLOWERS TASMANIA
23 November 2011
PREMIER MUST SUSPEND TASMANIAN INTEGRITY COMMISSION
Whistleblowers Tasmania are calling on the Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings to suspend the Tasmanian Integrity Commission.
Whistleblowers Tasmania spokesperson Isla MacGregor said “Whistleblowers Tasmania are gravely concerned about the crisis over the Tasmanian Integrity Commission as a result of Barbara Etter’s allegations outlined in the writ tended to the Supreme Court.
It is our view that the Premier must suspend the Tasmanian Integrity Commission as these allegations, and lack of powers, have led the Tasmanian community to have no confidence in our first anti-corruption watchdog.
Given Barbara Etters complaints, Whistleblowers Tasmania would not advise any would be whistleblowers to take a complaint to the TIC especially in the current climate of drastic cutbacks in the public sector.
Tasmanians had the opportunity to push for an ICAC style organisation in Tasmania to investigate corruption but failed to utilise the experience from other states especially in relation to powers.
The view that several legal experts held during the debate to establish the TIC that any anti-corruption body would do to start with, was misguided.
Had we developed legislation for a proper Tasmanian Anti-corruption Commission, backed by strong Whistleblower Protection laws, Barbara Etter would not have to take her case through the courts as external, independent investigative options for internal complaints from within the watchdog would be available.
The fact that Barbara Etter having worked within an inquisitorial investigative body, now has to take her own complaint through an adversarial legal process poses the usual questions about whether or not the full truth will come to light through the courts.
Barbara Etter’s case adds to the list of watchdogs in Tasmania who have left or lost their positions. Dr Jocelyn Scutt, former Anti-Discrimination Commissioner, Dr Patmalar Ambikapathy and Paul Mason former Children’s Commissioners.
As the public sector is being subject to more and more staff cuts it is vital that individuals’ professional ethics do not become totally subjugated to maintaining ones employment at all costs.
Given the mounting evidence against the effectiveness and integrity of the TIC, the Premier should take action and suspend the TIC.” said Isla MacGregor