The following cases all concern a home-based teaching practice.
Case Study Four
Chris Quinlan - Western Melbourne Suburb
2001 - Chris Quinlan is sent a letter by a Council officer regarding loud drumming, the letter warning of hefty fines and legal proceedings.
Chris is surprised at receiving the letter as nobody had come to him personally and his teaching practice conformed well within approved council times; He rang the Council Officer concerned for clarification.
During the course of the phone conversation it was found that the time the drumming was alleged to have been a nuisance occurred when Chris was not at home.
Subsequent enquiries found that the complainant was selling his house in the nearby court. Evidence gained, suggested that the Complainant or his Real Estate Agent may well have made a false report in order to “shut the drummer up” while selling his property.
Both Mr. Quinlan and the Council officer discussed the possibility that this situation may well constitute a fraud toward the Council and harassment toward Mr. Quinlan. It is unknown as to whether charges/fines were laid upon the complainant making a false complaint and wasting Council’s time and money.
Mr. Quinlan’s teaching practice was deemed to be abiding by Council guidelines upon inspection by two Council officers.
Case Study Five
A Council Officer contacted Chris Quinlan to inform him that complaints had been received in regard to “loud drumming” on his premises. No complainant had ever contacted Mr. Quinlan directly regarding his teaching practice.
Upon visiting Mr. Quinlan’s home studio, the attending Council officer reaffirmed the previous Officer’s 2001 finding that Mr.Quinlan’s teaching practice conformed to Council guidelines; she informed Mr.Quinlan that “records” were being kept of “noise” and would forward them on when received.
Before receiving these records of alleged times of noise nuisance from the complainant, a second letter was sent to Mr.Quinlan stating that he had failed to meet the requirements of clause 52.11 - Home Occupation.
The letter went on to say that the implementation of measures to reduce noise emissions must take place within 28 days with a suggestion of relocating the home business.
Mr.Quinlan urgently sought the records of alleged times he was expecting instead of this second letter. Mr.Quinlan also expressed his extreme disappointment at receiving this type of letter without any verification of times or right of defence by Mr.Quinlan.
The records kept by the complainant, when compared to Mr.Quinlan’s diaries of student times and television production, contained many inaccuracies and misleading entries and once again, Mr. Quinlan was not at home for one recorded entry.
In his belief that this was not an isolated incident and an area of deep concern for all Music Students, Home-Based Business Operators, Councils and other parties involved, Mr. Quinlan incorporated an editorial on his Television show “Melbourne Musos” episode 245.
A meeting was then organised between Mr. Quinlan, the Council Officer and the Councillor in charge of his particular Council Ward in an effort to improve the current situation of letters arbitrarily sent without first mediating or verifying any alleged times of perceived "nuisance" by complainants.
The meeting held on Friday 9th July 2004 was seen as a success and plans were made to address the current procedure and inform the public via both the Council’s website, and Chris Quinlan’s Television Show “Melbourne Musos” and website.
In October 2004 the original complainant finally contacted Mr. Quinlan only by the urging of the Council and after lengthy discussion, Mr. Quinlan agreed to fit insulation supplied by the complainant, with an understanding that this fitting would settle the matter.
All parties believed the solution an amicable one.
Case Study Six
On 22nd February 2005, Mr. Quinlan received another noise nuisance letter, this time sent by a third Council officer, not aware of the efforts Mr. Quinlan had already undertaken. The letter being delivered in a similar manner, without mediation or verification of factual evidence. Again, no complainant had come forward to directly contact Mr. Quinlan.
Mr. Quinlan immediately contacted Council to express his dismay at this continuing invasion of privacy and his legal right to conduct a home based business.
During this phone conversation, the Council Officer used words to the affect “The Council has to be seen to be doing something” ... Mr. Quinlan expressed his deep concern that what is actually happening is a continuing infringement on rights to privacy i.e. Council-condoned-surveillance by a complainant and infringements to rights to conduct a home based business.
Mr.Quinlan also contacted Council’s Planning and Liaison Officer Michelle Rowe and Mayor Caruana regarding this continuing situation of what has now become to Mr. Quinlan a harassment and invasion of privacy issue. Like Mr. Quinlan, both had thought any issues had been settled.
Mr. Quinlan also contacted a Board member of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner’s office who expressed concern over the situation, citing areas such as ...... a) Privacy of personal behaviour b) Workplace surveillance c) Home Intrusion.
On Tuesday, 29th March, Mr. Quinlan was contacted by the Council to arrange a meeting at his home with Mayor Caruana and Michelle Rowe; the meeting was arranged for 2pm 4th April.
Mr. Quinlan then contacted the Council for the written records that were being kept on his activities as stated in the 22nd February letter; Mr Quinlan was eventually contacted by the Council’s Information Officer.
The Officer informed Mr. Quinlan that the records of the noise complainants log of drumming times were not available to him unless he filled out a “Freedom of Information Request”.
Mr. Quinlan arranged to meet the Information Officer at Council Offices to obtain the relevant forms and seek clarification for this new situation of ....
..... a Local Resident having to fill out a Freedom of Information
Request for a log of times of activity in his own house, being kept by an unknown noise complainant all seemingly with Council approval.
During this discussion at the front desk of the Council offices, the Officer in charge of Planning Liaison and Investigations entered and joined the discussion, agreeing with Mr. Quinlan that it was my legal right to see these logs (if they existed)
The Information Officer later contacted Mr Quinlan to say that no logs of the said period of time had been received by the Council’s Health and Environment Department.
Mr. Quinlan noted that if the Officer in charge of Planning Liaison and Investigations did not join the discussion, the Council would be in an untenable situation of not giving Mr. Quinlan access to written records taken by an unknown complainant; Council then acting on unverified records being kept by the complainant, sending letters and fines to Mr. Quinlan who would not be allowed to defend the allegations made against him.
This position seemed indefensible (and has since been rectified).
Summary and Issues for Discussion
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