NEWCASTLE Art Gallery director Ron Ramsey has been prevented from commenting on why he has been stood aside from his job.
Mr Ramsey and his boss, ‘‘future city’’ director Judy Jaeger, have been suspended on full pay while ‘‘certain matters are being investigated’’ by Newcastle City Council.
In an email obtained by the Newcastle Herald, council general manager Ken Gouldthorp told councillors ‘‘that an opinion has not been formed as to the veracity of these matters’’.
The Herald likewise does not suggest that Mr Ramsey or Ms Jaeger did anything wrong.
‘‘I believe that it is appropriate that I advise councillors ... given that this process may lead to disciplinary action and given that you would otherwise hear of this matter via organisational rumours,’’ Mr Gouldthorp wrote.
The subject of the investigation remains a mystery, with Mr Gouldthorp instructing councillors not to comment publicly.
Mr Ramsey admitted yesterday he had been prevented from talking to the media.
‘‘I can’t talk to you. I’m sorry I can’t, I’m instructed that I can’t,’’ he said.
Ms Jaeger did not respond to numerous phone calls.
But Labor councillor Tim Crakanthorp defied the gag, blasting the decision and the secrecy surrounding it. He said suspending the staff before conducting an investigation could ‘‘mar their professional reputation’’.
‘‘This is a classic case of management by ambush,’’ he said.
‘‘They’ve suspended people and now they’re doing an audit, normal practice is to do an audit and then suspend people.
‘‘The reputation of this council is being trashed by such actions [and] it’s an outrage that councillors are being gagged by management.’’
Cr Crakanthorp said he has called for an urgent confidential briefing on the matter.
‘‘Which is what we should have gotten before this action was taken,’’ he said.
Mr Gouldthorp also failed to return calls, while a spokeswoman said: ‘‘Council doesn’t comment on staff matters’’.
Gillian Summers, the lord mayor Jeff McCloy’s chief of staff, said it was not an issue on which the mayor could comment.
‘‘It’s not appropriate for the lord mayor to comment ... It’s an operational matter, a staffing matter, and I believe on the operational side council has a policy of not commenting on staff matters.’’
Asked if Cr McCloy knew about the suspension before other councillors or had information on the reason for it Ms Summers said she could not comment.
Newcastle Art Gallery Foundation chairman Rob Henderson said he had been kept in the dark about the decision.
‘‘I’m unable to comment because I don’t have any information,’’ he said.
‘‘As a private citizen I’m appalled at the way Ron Ramsey is being treated, but as a chairman I’m unable to comment.’’