North Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner displayed “bullying behaviour” towards staff, a panel overseeing her work has ruled.
Describing the issue as “endemic” at Julia Mulligan’s office, the Police and Crime Panel upheld a complaint from a member of staff, which had been supported by similar allegations from three other people.
Mrs Mulligan has hit back, saying the panel’s conclusions were “regrettable and disappointing and were there a mechanism to appeal, I would certainly do so”.
The complaint had been lodged by a former member of Mrs Mulligan’s staff, named only as AB, with supporting statements from three other individuals “who similarly alleged that they had been subjected to bullying behaviour by the PCC (Police and Crime Commissioner)”.
The report by Coun Peter Wilkinson, chairman of the panel’s complaints sub-committee, and a Conservative member of Hambleton District Council, said while they did not find that Mrs Mulligan had set out to be “a bully”, she displayed “characteristics of bullying behaviour” and there were “multiple examples given within the complaint statements of the PCC reacting irascibly towards various staff in the office”.
It said: “The PCC has reflected in her statement that she can be ‘challenging and difficult’ in her approach to the role at times but considers that this is part and parcel of being able to survive and thrive in the ‘male-dominated’ arena in which she works and to try and deliver the best service for the public.
“The sub-committee consider that the PCC’s view on leadership cultures is highly stereotypical in approach, based on assumptions around behaviours which she perceives to be demonstrated by successful senior male leaders in public office.”
The report sets out six recommendations, including the commissioning of an independent staff survey.
It calls on Mrs Mulligan to reflect upon the complaints and undergo leadership training.
Mrs Mulligan, a Conservative commissioner, said she was “shocked” by both the panel’s approach to the complaint and its findings.
She said: “I take great pride in the service my hard-working team offer to the public. It’s not perfect and there have been some issues, but they are a great team, who share my drive to support the public. I therefore do not recognise any ‘systemic’ issues within the OPCC (Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner).
"Throughout this process I have offered to meet with the panel so they could ‘investigate’ matters – no door has been closed.
“In the spirit of openness and transparency under which I approach every aspect of my work, I again offer this to the panel.
“To draw the conclusions they have, given all the above, is regrettable and disappointing and were there a mechanism to appeal, I would certainly do so.
“On the recommendations themselves, I am happy to consider them, but I would need considerable reassurance that the matter will be dealt with fairly and constructively, not least on behalf of my staff.
"The offer therefore remains open for the panel to come to the office and speak to whomever they like.”
Mrs Mulligan said she would “pause and reflect” on the panel’s finding about the complaint lodged against her.
She said: “On a personal note, since this report came to light, a huge amount of support has been extended to me, for which I am hugely grateful.
“People do not recognise the picture painted by the report, but this is clearly a time to pause and reflect, which I will do. However, on behalf of the public, I will continue to ask a lot of people, and I am sure they will continue to do their very best.”
Coun Wilkinson said: "Our role is both to support and challenge the Commissioner and throughout this process we have undertaken to be as fair and robust as possible.
“Our findings and recommendations are based on careful deliberation of all the material that has been provided to us.
“The Commissioner has been invited to respond formally to our report within 21 days.”