Former Principal ran school as ‘personal fiefdom’: Ombudsman

Bendigo's South East College report

Former Principal ran school as ‘personal fiefdom’: Ombudsman


Wednesday 12 September 2018


The former Principal of Bendigo South East College, Ernest Fleming, abused his position by employing and promoting his wife and son and by facilitating benefits being channelled to companies owned by another son, the Victorian Ombudsman has found.


Tabling her Investigation into three protected disclosure complaints regarding Bendigo South East College in the Victorian Parliament, Ombudsman Deborah Glass said it was a case study in nepotism.


Ernest Fleming employed his wife as Personal Assistant to the Principal, despite there being no record of her applying for the position, and one of his sons as Athlete Development Program Manager, even though there was a more qualified candidate for the role.


In addition, Ernest Fleming employed Michael Bulmer, who initially worked for Bendigo Coachlines before purchasing the company with another of Ernest Fleming’s sons, as the college’s bus coordinator. Later, Mr Bulmer’s wife took on the college’s bus coordinator role. The bus coordinator role allowed the Bulmers to allocate college business to Bendigo Coachlines, at the expense of other local bus companies. This conduct was authorised and facilitated by Ernest Fleming.


“The investigation found that for many years, Ernest Fleming ran the college as a personal fiefdom, employing and promoting family members, providing substantial benefits to his son’s business partner and companies owned by his son, and using public funds as he saw fit without consultation or approval from the college council,” Ms Glass said.


Mr Fleming resigned as Principal in May 2018 after the Department of Education and Training informed him of its decision to terminate his employment, following an internal investigation.


Read the full media release and investigation report here: