Victoria's emergency services commissioner steps down amid allegations of bullying, inappropriate behavior

Craig Lapsley in Bendigo earlier this year. Picture: NONI HYETT
Craig Lapsley in Bendigo earlier this year. Picture: NONI HYETT

UPDATE 2.30pm: Craig Lapsley has acknowledged that “on occasion I engaged in inappropriate workplace behaviour that was abrasive and confronting and that I did not treat people with the great respect they deserved.”

Mr Lapsley said no one had ever doubted his commitment and dedication to emergency personnel and said his leadership and contribution was done to his maximum capacity.

“Upon reflection I believe I could have done much more to show and communicate my unquestioned admiration of, and support for the people who are at the heart of the state’s emergency response system,” he said in a statement.

“I deeply regret the instances where my conduct fell short of the very high standards expected of me, and I apologise sincerely to those people affected.”

Mr Lapsley said that after eight years of service and the enormous responsibilities his role carries, a new emergency management commissioner will be able to bring fresh eyes, energy and insights to the job.

“That’s why today I announce my resignation as Emergency Management Commissioner and pledge whatever support and assistance I can provide to the state government, the minister and my successor in terms of a smooth and successful transition,” he said.

“Together our state has tackled some extraordinary challenges that have required the very best of our people in times of great need.

“These people, doing their very best for Victoria, deserve the very best treatment as employees and valued colleagues.”

Mr Lapsley is optimistic his successor at Emergency Management Victoria’s leadership team will have the support needed to take the office forward and be its best self.

“We need the best people in this organisation,” he said.

“This has always been my motivation and ambition; just as I am confident it will be for the new Emergency Management Commissioner.

“It has been a great honour and source of personal and professional satisfaction to have served as Victoria’s Emergency Management Commissioner.”

Mr Lapsley grew up volunteering as a junior firefighter in Bendigo, taking an apprenticeship with the CFA as a 16-year-old.

He progressed through to top positions in the CFA, NSW Fire Brigades and SES.

In 2013 he became Australia’s first emergency management commissioner, with an over-arching responsibility for every Victorian emergency response, ranging from bushfires to floods and other natural disasters.

Craig Lapsley and James Merlino last year. Picture: Darrian Traynor

Craig Lapsley and James Merlino last year. Picture: Darrian Traynor

Earlier: Victoria’s emergency management commissioner Craig Lapsley has resigned effective today amid allegations of bullying and misconduct.

Emergency services minister James Merlino said that in recent times it had become apparent Mr Lapsley has not always conducted himself in accordance with the very high standards expected of him.

As a result, Mr Merlino said the Emergency Management Victoria workplace has been very difficult and challenging for a number of Mr Laspley’s staff.

“This is very disappointing both to me as emergency services minister and to the government generally,” Mr Merlino said.

To ensure EMV can continue to fulfill its critical role on behalf of the Victorian community, Mr Lapsley has offered his resignation as emergency management commissioner. His resignation is effective from today.

James Merlino, emergency services minister

“I have previously made it clear to Mr Lapsley that bullying and inappropriate workplace behaviour will not be tolerated and that remains very firmly the case.

“It is my very strong view that all government employees, including those at EMV, should be able to work in safe and supportive workplaces.

“To ensure EMV can continue to fulfill its critical role on behalf of the Victorian community, Mr Lapsley has offered his resignation as emergency management commissioner. His resignation is effective from today.”

A former Bendigo fire fighter, Mr Lapspey rose to become Victoria’s emergency management commissioner.

Mr Merlino thanked Mr Lapsley for his contribution in what is a critical and challenging role.

“As emergency management commissioner, Mr Lapsley has been a significant leader in Victoria’s emergency management sector, helping improve the state’s emergency preparedness, response and recovery capability,” he said.

“Through EMV’s efforts, Victoria is undoubtedly better prepared for the emergencies it will inevitably, albeit unfortunately, face in the future.”

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