Lake Macquarie City Council has escaped a penalty after one of its employees forwarded a woman's personal details to a man who then harassed the woman with threatening text messages, the Administrative Decisions Tribunal was told.
The woman wrote a letter of complaint to a council manager in July 2008 about a large vehicle that was parked in her street, tribunal member Stephen Montgomery said recently.
A council employee read the letter two months later and forwarded the details of the letter, including the woman's personal details, to the owner of the vehicle who was also the employee's ex-partner.
The man then sent a number of threatening and abusive text messages to the woman, causing her great distress and illness, the tribunal heard.
She separated from her partner, left her residence to live with her parents, and has not returned to the home due to concerns for her safety.
When the council learned of the breach they conducted an internal review and found that although the employee read the letter, the employee did not forward the woman's details to the man.
The tribunal rejected this and ruled that the employee did forward the woman's details to the man.
"In my view the council is liable for the actions of the employee in disclosing [the woman's] personal information," Mr Montgomery said.
"[The woman] says that the inference can be drawn that the true reason that the employee accessed and disclosed the information was to assist the [man] in his dealings with council rangers."
The council disciplined the employee and forced her to complete "privacy awareness and code of conduct training", Mr Montgomery said. The tribunal chose not to penalise the council because the council had apologised to the woman and disciplined the employee.