P&C feud goes all the way to Supreme Court

Before Wednesday's Watergate-style break-in, before the frozen bank account and the Supreme Court injunction and all the talk of nepotism and bullying, the NSW Parents and Citizens Federation was mostly about school fete insurance and the Leftovers-to-Lunchbox program.

"The meeting wasn't properly convened, so it has no authority": Lyall Wilkinson.                    Picture: Simon Alekna

"The meeting wasn't properly convened, so it has no authority": Lyall Wilkinson. Picture: Simon Alekna

''It was about students and parents and public education,'' said federation president Lyall Wilkinson. ''Now it seems to be about power.''

The federation has been riven by discord for years. Allegations of mismanagement led to the formation last year of a breakaway group led by Sharryn Brownlee.

A former federation president, Mrs Brownlee staged her coup in the Merrylands Bowling Club last November when she and other members voted to remove Mr Wilkinson from the presidency and have herself installed in his place.

''The meeting wasn't properly convened, so it has no authority,'' Mr Wilkinson said.

Mrs Brownlee has since claimed to be the rightful president and tried to gain access to the federation's bank accounts. The accounts, which can hold up to $250,000, were temporarily frozen.

Matters reached a head on Wednesday, when Mrs Brownlee and two other women took control of the federation's headquarters in Granville. ''I got a call at about 7pm saying there had been a break-in,'' Mr Wilkinson said. ''They had a locksmith come in and change all the locks so we couldn't get back in. We have CCTV footage of them trying to break into locked desks and going through documents.''

Mrs Brownlee would not comment, but another woman who took part denied it was a ''break-in''.

''The police knew what we were doing, and they gave us the go ahead to get in and change the locks,'' she said.

Mrs Brownlee and the women slept in the office overnight, in which time they say they were harassed by opposing P&C members.

''At about 3am they popped the doors open and in barged two huge security guards,'' Mrs Brownlee's colleague said. ''We were scared.''

Asked why they were trying to get access to documents, she said: ''There has been a lack of disclosure from [Mr Wilkinson]. The members have obligations they are required to fulfil, such as directors' duties. Besides, if the police thought we had done something illegal, they would have charged us with trespass, but they didn't.''

She also claimed that nepotism was rife, with Mr Wilkinson giving two distinguished service awards to members of his inner circle without ratification from the state council. ''It was a breach of the constitution,'' she said.

On Thursday Mr Wilkinson applied for a Supreme Court injunction ''asking that Brownlee be removed from the building and that everything be handed back to us''.

''In the meantime I have told our people to stay away from it,'' he said.

The matter will be heard in the Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The federation, which represents more than 1900 local P&C groups from 2226 schools, was the focus of the 2012 Roden Report, which found it to be plagued by bullying and factional infighting.

Education Minister Adrian Piccoli has called the body an ''unacceptable rabble''. Last year the government froze its annual funding of $380,000 a year.

Federation media officer Rachael Sowden conceded ''there have been some issues. But breaking into a building is not the way to solve them''.


Discuss "P&C feud goes all the way to Supreme Court "

Please note: All comments made or shown here are bound by the Online Discussion Terms & Conditions.