Robert Doyle: second sexual harassment investigation ‘inconclusive’ | Australia news
A second investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by the former Melbourne lord mayor Robert Doyle failed to make any conclusive findings because Doyle was too unwell to respond to questions.
The investigation concerned allegations made against Doyle in his role as the chairman of Melbourne Health, which were made public after he had stepped aside from his position as lord mayor following sexual harassment allegations from two female councillors.
He resigned from both positions in February and has repeatedly denied all claims of sexual harassment made against him.
Victorian barrister Charles Scerri QC was appointed by the Victorian government in January to investigate an allegation that Doyle had touched a woman’s inner thigh and made inappropriate comments at a Melbourne Health Awards ceremony in 2016.
According to a summary of Scerri’s report, released on Tuesday, he found that he “has no reason to doubt, and at present does not doubt, the veracity of the complainant”.
“However, because of ill health, Mr Doyle has been unable to respond to the allegations,” the summary says. “In the absence of any response from Mr Doyle, Mr Scerri is not able to reach, and has not reached, any conclusions about the allegations.”
Doyle’s lawyer, Nick Ruskin, reiterated his client’s ill health.
“Robert has not been well enough to participate in the Melbourne Health investigation and has received no material from the investigator regarding the allegations,” Ruskin said.
Scerri found that Melbourne Health responded appropriately to the allegations but raised two areas of concern.
He said that while the organisation had appropriate policies and procedures in place for reporting sexual harassment, they were not known by the complainant and there was uncertainty around how a complaint that concerned the chairman of the board should be managed.
Melbourne Health said it welcomed Scerri’s findings and had updated its sexual harassment policies to include handling complaints against board members.
“Melbourne Health is united against sexual harassment, assault or discrimination of any sort,” it said in a statement.
The Victorian health minister, Jill Hennessy, announced a $400,000 trial of independent facilitators in Victorian hospitals to help staff speak out about inappropriate behaviour and sexual harassment, and navigate the complaints process.
“These independent facilitators will give staff confidence to stand up and speak up against unacceptable behaviours without fear of reprisal,” she said.
Last month an investigation into allegations of misconduct at the City of Melbourne concluded that Doyle had sexually harassed fellow councillors Tessa Sullivan and Cathy Oke and made council an unsafe workplace for them.
A 10-page summary of the 100-page report said the finding was made despite Doyle’s strong denial of engaging in inappropriate conduct. The full report has not been made public.
A byelection for the lord mayor’s role is being conducted by postal vote and will conclude on 12 May.