Bullying claims aired

Casey mayor Amanda Stapledon with her deputies Timothy Jackson and Rosalie Crestani in 2018.

By Cam Lucadou-Wells

Former Casey councillor and deputy mayor Rosalie Crestani has told an IBAC hearing that she was been bullied by her ex-colleagues for “years”.

Ms Crestani accused then-mayor Amanda Stapledon of seeking her to step down as deputy mayor three times.

At issue was Ms Crestani publicly speaking out against the council’s approvals of mosques. Her stance was routinely opposed by Ms Stapledon.

According to the council’s policy, councillors were recommended to advise the council’s communications unit of their “media interactions”.

“And that’s why she asked me to step down as deputy, and I refused,” Ms Crestani said, noting the media guidelines weren’t mandatory.

Ms Crestani said her chief bullies were Ms Stapledon and another former councillor Sam Aziz.

Mr Aziz “rallied” councillors against her after she supported a councillor who complained against Mr Aziz at a code-of-conduct panel hearing in 2013, Ms Crestani said.

“There were different elements over so many years but I’m a quick forgiver.

“If I happened to disagree with certain individuals, they’d let me know about it.”

She was “intimidated” by their comments, which were often made in public. Occasionally, it was aimed at influencing her vote, Ms Crestani said.

“It was there for the public to see. It must have been acceptable for it to continue for years and years and years. It wasn’t just me, it was stacks of people.”

Other ex-councillors such as Gary Rowe and Susan Serey said they saw no signs of bullying but more along the lines of robust debate.

At the hearing, Ms Crestani was played a secret phone tap of former colleague Geoff Ablett seeking talking points from developer John Woodman to brief Ms Crestani on the H3 intersection planning issue in late 2018.

After crunching the numbers with Mr Woodman, Mr Ablett talks of Ms Crestani being likely voted in to chair the matter.

“We were pushing for her because she was running for us and she gets a casting vote,” Mr Ablett tells Mr Woodman.

“She said, ‘I will follow what you say, Geoff’.”

Upon hearing the tape, Ms Crestani told the inquiry that: “I’m disgusted actually … it makes people into puppets.”

She said Mr Ablett was “talking himself up” in terms of his influence on her.

At the time, Ms Crestani knew of Mr Woodman funding Mr Ablett’s state election campaign as well as the pair being investigated by the State Ombudsman in 2015.

She agreed with IBAC Commissioner Robert Redlich that Mr Ablett shouldn’t have briefed her due to his conflict of interest. But she wasn’t sure if that extended to private discussions outside of the council chamber.

“At times I wasn’t sure where the lines were.”

Commissioner Redlich said phone taps suggested that Mr Ablett was able to persuade Ms Crestani to support pro-Woodman motions .

“Well, then he would be underestimating me because I thought he knew me as an independent mind and I made decisions always independently, even at risk of friendships,” Ms Crestani said.

Ms Crestani recalled being elected as one of the deputy mayor positions in a split vote in 2018. It was effectively decided by Susan Serey’s vote for Ms Crestani over Wayne Smith.

“It was either a conservative or a Commie,” Ms Serey later told her.

Ms Stapledon told IBAC that she didn’t vote for Ms Crestani as deputy mayor, nor did she vote for her.

In a phone tap, she told ally Mr Aziz that Ms Crestani would “listen to Geoff (Ablett) when it comes to important matters of voting”.

Commissioner Redlich noted the conflicts that Mr Aziz, Mr Ablett and Ms Stapledon had in reference to voting on matters related to Mr Woodman.

“Mr Aziz has got knowledge that you have a conflict and he’s working on you to be involved.

“Mr Ablett has got a conflict and you are telling Mr Aziz that Ablett’s got Ms Crestani’s ear when he shouldn’t.

“What’s going on?”

Ms Stapledon said: “My values were not in line with my behaviours or my behaviours were not in line with my values, sir, and I’m bitterly disappointed in myself.”