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A Northern Territory Government bureaucrat apologises for Facebook reputation damage

A NT GOVERNMENT bureaucrat has publicly apologised to a teacher for reputation damage and professional sabotage after impersonating him on Facebook.

Philip Brennan was the Education Department human resources boss when he created an elaborate fake social media profile posing as former NT teacher Stephen Ferguson and posted damaging comments.

He admitted the conduct in a public notice titled “apology” in yesterday’s NT News.

Mr Brennan now works for the Health Department.

His fake online comments were made in late 2013 when the Government and NT teachers locked horns over an emotive industrial dispute.

“I did something that was wrong and has caused harm to an ex-employee, Stephen Ferguson,” Mr Brennan said in his apology. “I wish to take full responsibility for my actions and formally acknowledge the hurt and damage my actions have caused.”



Mr Brennan said he created an email address almost identical to Mr Ferguson’s and used it to make the fake Facebook account “using Mr Ferguson’s full legal name”. He “spent some time placing images on it to make it look authentic”.

Mr Brennan said he made comments purporting to be Mr Ferguson on two Facebook pages, including that of the Australian Education Union.

“These comments questioned Mr Ferguson’s personal and professional integrity and damaged his reputation,” he said. “I knew these comments to be false and I was aware that they could be detrimental to the employment prospects of Mr Ferguson if read by a potential employer.”

Mr Brennan’s motive for his actions is unclear.

The Education Department has reached five out-of-court settlements with Mr Ferguson, a teacher who was once removed from Gapuwiyak, 110km southwest of Nhulunbuy, for his own safety after turning whistleblower.

It was alleged that school principal Shirley Nirrpuranydji threatened to “kill him, spear him, hang him from a tree and burn down his house” after he complained about her “borrowing money from staff”.

Education Department chief executive officer Ken Davies said Mr Brennan was investigated and disciplined for his misconduct