AC Unreasonable Customer Complainants

On 22 September 2016 the Chief Executive of Auckland Council placed severe restrictions on my ability to communicate with Auckland Council. Here is a chronology of what has taken place leading up to those restrictions and what has taken place since the restrictions were imposed.

On 9 September 2016 I sent a LGOIMA request to Auckland Council.

On 12 September2016 I received an unsigned email acknowledgement that stated “We will respond to your request within 20 working days of receipt of your request.” This is despite the requirement of Section 13(1) of LGOIMA stating requests should be fulfilled “a soon as reasonably practicable.”

I rang to find out: 1) Who was processing my request.  2) What stage it had reached.  It didn’t take long to realise I was being given the run-around. I complained to the Chief Executive, Stephen Town on 22 September 2016. His response was to launch a series of unsubstantiated allegations against me which he used as a basis for restricting all my phone calls to the Call Centre and all correspondence with Council to one person, Dayle Muru.

Mr Town wrote “You are asked to immediately stop

-Sending emails or making phone calls with a threatening or abusive tone

-Making personal insults towards any staff member or council contractors.

-Escalating calls to senior managers without giving staff time to respond to your initial contact

On 23 September 2016 I refuted Mr Town’s allegations and asked him to address 15 specific concerns arising from his unsubstantiated allegations.

On 7 October 2016, having received no reply, I lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman.

On 10 October 2016 the Ombudsman assigned me a reference number.

On 20 October 2016, having still received no reply from Stephen Town, I lodged a Privacy Request for a copy of “all personal information pertaining to the allegations made in Mr Town’s letter of 22 September.”

On 4 November 2016 Dayle Muru gave a generalised response on behalf of Mr Town stating inter alia:

Your request for telephone transcripts. Council records calls that came through its call centre until they are transferred to staff. Calls with staff outside the call centre are not recorded . The concerns surrounding your communications were during interactions with staff outside the call centre. Therefore we are unable to provide you transcripts in relation to the behaviour that led to Stephen’s letter to you.

Request for abusive emails  As mentioned above, the behaviour complained of was a result of phone calls with staff and do not relate to emails”.

Hang on! Stephen Town had accused me of sending threatening and abusive emails.

In a separate letter dated 4 November Dayle Muru advised me re my Privacy Request “This information is refused as the disclosure would involve the unwarranted disclosure of the affairs of another individual in accordance with section29(1)(a) the Privacy Act (the Act) and would breach legal professional privilege in accordance with section 29(1)(f) of the Act.

On 22 November I lodged a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner.

On 18 January 2017  the Privacy Commissioner’s office advised me they had written to Council asking them to provide the withheld information.

On 21 February 2017 Tinus Schutte from the Ombudsman’s office said they understood I had a solicitor acting for me and if so it was likely they would discontinue their enquiries. If he did not hear back from me by 28 February 2017 they would close the file.

On 28 February 2017 I advised Tinus Schutte my solicitor was no longer acting for me.

On 24 March 2017 I wrote to Dayle Muru asking what was happening regarding my six-monthly UCC (unreasonable customer conduct) review.

On 28 March 2017 Dayle Muru advised me the UCC review would be “carried out by the legal team and Chief Executive and will take approximately two weeks to be thoroughly investigated.”

On 30 March 2017 I sent a number of character references to both the Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner from people I had been involved with in Council related activities over the years.

On 7 April 2017 I asked Dayle Muru why the review was not being carried out in accordance with Auckland Council’s stated policy.

Under Council’s UCC Policy published on the Council’s website it states:

“7.5      Periodic Reviews

Alll UCC cases where this policy is applied will be reviewed every six months (depending on the nature of the service provided) and not more than 12 months after the service change or restriction was initially imposed, or continued.

The case manager will invite the complainant to participatein the review process in writing only, unless they determine that this invitation will provoke further UCC.

The nominated senior manager is responsible for conducting the periodic reviews.

Factors relevant to the periodic review such as the criteria to be considered, notifying the complainant of the upcoming review and outcome, recording the result, and notifying relevant staff of the result of the review are detailed in the UCC Procedure Guidelines.”

On 22 April 2017 I again asked Dayle Muru why the UCC review was not being conducted in accordance with Auckland Council’s stated policy.

On 24 April 2017 Dayle Muru told me she would discuss the matter with Sally Woods and get back to me.

On 27 April 2017 Dayle Muru invited me to make written submissions on my review and said if they did not receive a response by Friday 5 May they would assume I had no wish to participate.

On 1 May 2017 Lynley Cahill from The Privacy Commissioner’s office advised me the Council had advised her they were only seeking to withhold information under section 29(1)(a) of the Privacy Act and not section 29(1)(f). Accordingly she had ordered the Council to release some documentation to me and recommended the Council should release a summary of two other documents. She said the Council had agreed to do so.

The documents provided that day by Council did not substantiate Mr Town’s allegations. Indeed an email from Dayle Muru to Sally Woods dated 6 October 2016 (some 2 weeks after Mr Town’s allegations) stated

“Hi Sally,

I have listened to a number of calls concentrating on the calls that were longer to see if during those calls he becomes abusive or rude. In all the calls that I have listened to he is civil he does make comments regarding the Councils service but they are quite general and can be classed as relevant to why he is ringing. In a lot of these calls he will ask for multiple employees when he is unable to get hold of them which means the calls can be quite long between 15-30 mins. Once the calls are transferred if they have been they are no longer recorded so cannot comment on what the conversation is like after this.

The only factor is that he is phoning the council on some dates numerous times trying to get hold of a Council employee an example would be on the 8th of Sept 2016 he phoned 13 times this is the most excessive but I do have to say it is regarding him leaving messages and nobody returning his calls.

There are no calls that I can say are threatening or abusive in regards to the CSR staff.

Kind regards

Dayle Muru”

On 4 May 2017 I forwarded my submission to Dayle Muru.

On 5 May 2017 Dayle Muru acknowledged receipt of my submission, advised me it had been passed on to the legal team, and would be included in my review for a final decision by Stephen Town by 19 May. She also informed me she was leaving Auckland Council.

On 9 May 2017 Sally Woods advised me the process they were following was in line with their policy. I asked who my contact person was to replace Dayle Muru. She replied “The issues resolution team will co-ordinate responses to you until the outcome of the review.” I sent a copy of “7.5 Periodic Reviews” to her and asked Sally 1,Who is the nominated senior manager? 2.Who is the independent person?

On 10 May 2017 Sally Woods replied “The “senior manager” who will carry out your review is council’s most senior manager, the Chief Executive, in accordance with the policy, and as we have advised. However other senior managers are involved in the process, which is what I was trying to explain. As Customer Experience Manager, responsible for administering the policy, and as Dayle’s manager I am collating the information which will then be checked by the Legal team, and by council’s Executive Officer, before referring on to the Chief Executive to complete the review and advise you of the outcome.”

On 12 May 2017 Sally Woods advised me “Your review is now with the legal team. They will be advising on whether we are following policy and process amongst other things. I will confirm the independent person following that advice..”

On 15 May 2017 I rang the Ombudsman’s office and left a message for Mr Schutte to ring me.

On 17 May 2017 Sally Woods advised me “The legal team have recommended we seek an external independent review before the Chief Executive makes his final review of the restriction to your access to council. This will add to our timeline for completion of the review. To allow sufficient time for their review and any questions or further information they may require, I anticipate another two weeks will be required.”

On 19 May 2017 Mrs Longdin-Prisk from the Ombudsman’s office rang me and I asked if I could have a progress report on my complaint lodged on 7 October 2016.

On 25 May 2017 Mr Schutte sent me an email advising he had assigned my case to Mrs Longdin-Prisk and she would update me every six weeks.

On 29 May  2017 I posed three questions to Sally Woods.

  1.  Who is the person in charge of the independent review?

2.   What are his/her credentials?

3.   When will I be advised of the outcome?

On 31 May 2017 Sally Woods responded “I am still waiting to hear back from our external review. I’ll be in touch as soon as I’m able.” I emailed back that I would appreciate answers to my questions. Her response was “I’m sorry it is taking so long, and that I have had to extend our original completion date. The reason for this is to ensure that we are fair to you, and complete the review correctly.”

When the Super City was first announced I went into it with an open mind prepared to see if the promises of accountability and transparency were delivered. There was also talk of cost efficiencies and economies of scale. Unfortunately the ratepayer ability to have a democratic say in this organisation has taken a nose-dive. Although we often hear rhetoric about wanting to hear the views of ratepayers, woe betide any ratepayer who dares criticise the council. The Council is run by bureaucrats who are accountable to an autocrat. Councillors have little effective input into the running of Auckland Council. To tell me I have had to wait for more than 2 months for a review of my UCC in order to be “fair” to me only rubs salt in the wound.

 

 

 

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Auckland Council Local Boards

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

There are arguments over who first made this statement so I have not attributed it.

Does your Local Board reflect the views of ratepayers?

Here are two extracts from the minutes of the latest Henderson-Massey Local Board meeting held on 2 May 2017.

“13.   Harbourview-Orangihina Master Plan

Resolution number HM/2017/63

MOVED by Member B Brady, seconded by Member V Neeson:

That the Henderson-Massey Local Board:

(a) Endorse the allocation and use of up to $120,000 of funds collected by the legacy Waitakere City Council through a Uniform Annual Charge initiated in 2001, to fund the development of a master plan for Harbourview-Orangihina park.                     CARRIED”

“14  d)  provides the following views on the annual budget regional financial policy consultation issues:

  1. Rates increase – The Henderson-Massey Local Board supports retaining the previously planned 3.5% average rates increase noting that:
  • Future infrastructure provision must be adequately resourced to enable successful community outcomes when growth occurs. Like many others this Board is poised to welcome thousands of new residents, particularly in growth areas of the North-west, and without proper resourcing we may embed structural problems that would be difficult and expensive to retro-fit in the future.”

Recently the majority of Councillors voted not to allow people to submit in person on this year’s budget at an Annual Plan hearing before the Finance and Performance Committee.

In April a statement appeared on the Council’s website saying “The feedback provided in the consultation is currently being processed and an overview report will be available here on 26 April 2017. When the summary failed to appear I was told there had been a delay because of public holidays but the report would be available on 28 April. When that did not happen I was told the report would be available in early May. I have seen little or no comment about a 3.5% rates increase.

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Auckland Council’s Expensive IT System

 

In February 2012 it was reported in the Herald that Deloitte led a consortium that was paid about $27 million in consultancy fees as part of a basic $54 million computer system to get the Auckland Council up and running. Chief finance officer Andrew McKenzie said “Ratepayers are not being ripped off.” The project ended in July 2011. The Feb 2012 Herald report revealed a more comprehensive computer system was being worked on estimated to cost $500 million over 10 years

In November 2014 it was revealed Council’s reset of its New Core programme had blown out from the original costing in 2012 of $71 million to a cost “in the range of $155 million”.

In December 2015 Auditor General Lynn Provost was highly critical of the $157m New Core system.

In a Herald article on 29 February 2016 the following expenditures on IT since 2010 were revealed:

Auckland Council $902m, Auckland Transport $209m, Watercare $124m.     — all in all a staggering total of $1.235 billion!!!

How well is it working for ratepayers?

Recently I wished to inspect the agenda for the forthcoming Henderson Massey Local Board(HMLB) meeting on Tuesday 21 March 2017.  Agendas are usually published on the Council website at least two working days prior to a meeting. I checked the website after the close of business on Thursday 16 March 2017. There was no agenda for HMLB, although I did notice agendas for Waitemata Local Board, Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board, Great Barrier LB, Finance and Performance Committee, and Devonport-Takapuna LB – all for 21 March.

First thing Friday morning I sent an email to Dayle Muru (woman I have been instructed by the Chief Executive to have sole contact with) asking why no agenda was published for HMLB. At 9am I rang and left a message for her to ring me. Having received neither email nor returned phone call from Dayle Muru by 4.30 pm Monday, I again rang and left a message for her to ring me. She rang back at 4.45 pm and told me she had been away sick on Friday.

At 4 pm on 21 March the HMLB meeting took place.

At 1.15 pm on Wednesday 22 March Dayle Muru emailed me. “The online version was not available on the council website due to a technical error which was fixed on Friday morning.”

Let’s hope we long-suffering ratepayers are not required to stump up with another billion dollars to rectify technical errors in our state of the art IT system.

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Waitakere Grey Power

MY COMMENTS ON MEETING 29 March 2017

RATES

My concern is that rates have grown at a rapid rate in recent years. For me, I have no mortgage on my own home, but there are a number of superannuitants who do have mortgages, have lived in the same home most of their lives, have contributed to their local community and are faced with rapidly increasing valuations that consequently affect their rates. On 1 April National Superannuation will increase by 1.5%. That should help! Of even more concern should be the growing debt which one day must be repaid. At 30 June 2016 AC’s official debt was $7.6b. Forecast is $11.6b for 2024/25. That’s a faster growth rate than the projected population growth rate. If you intend being on this planet for the next 20 years you should be gravely concerned. Too often we hear the cry “Oh well if you can’t afford to live here you should sell up and go and live in a place you can afford.” —Totally unacceptable. It’s high time to revisit the suggestion put forward by Grey Power many years ago and often espoused by Don Chapman. Scrap rates as the major source of income for Councils, increase the GST, and out of that force Central Government to allocate adequate funding to Councils to cover both operating costs and infrastructure.

TE ATATU RD

This project has been a shambles. Initially planned to commence in 2013 and be completed in 2014, we’re now told hopefully mid-2017. Again elderly people have been taken for granted and disadvantaged. In one case an elderly couple received an offer of $3000 for their land. They were pressured to accept. Meanwhile for a piece of land of comparable size shared by 6 people they were offered $3000 each. One of them contested this and was offered an extra $500 for their share. Consequently the other 5 were offered an extra $500 each. This brought the total to $21000 (seven times that accepted by the elderly couple under duress.) Vehicle access to properties has been an ongoing problem with driveways often blocked for days without prior notice. Also there has been inaccurate advice re road closures. Under the Public Works Act there is no provision for loss of earnings or inconvenience. In December 2013 I put out a paper on the Public Works Act copies of which were submitted to my two local MPs Phil Twyford and Alfred Ngaro. The Act is an anachronism in urgent need of revision.

SPEAKING RIGHTS

In 2012, unbeknown to me or elected representatives, the Chief Executive of Auckland Council gave a directive blocking all my emails to elected representatives. This lasted until I discovered it quite by chance 10 months later. After initial denial by the CE that anyone’s emails had been blocked, he said 3 people were being “case managed.” Council commissioned a report by Ernst and Young at a cost of $55000 that talked about unreasonable customer conduct. In March 2013 my emails were reinstated. Then in 2016 I put in a LGOIMA request re salaries of elected members. Concerned I was being mucked around every time I rang the Call Centre I complained to the Chief Executive, Stephen Town. Rather than address the complaint he made a number of allegations against me that he has since refused to retract or substantiate. On the basis of those allegations he deemed me to be a UCC and told me all future calls and emails were to go to one person. I have put complaints into the Ombudsman in Oct 2016 and then to the Privacy Commissioner. Last week the Privacy Commissioner’s office rang and said they were not satisfied with Council’s response and have sought further information. I rang the Ombudsman’s office and was told I would have to be patient. Council’s UCC Policy calls for six monthly reviews. On Friday I emailed my sole Council contact to find out what had happened re the six-monthly review. Yesterday she rang me to say their legal team is handling it and will be another couple of weeks. Is it any wonder our rates are so high? In November last year I applied to speak at the Council meeting on 15 December. Phil Goff denied me that right on the basis of the “nature tone and volume of your historical communications to Auckland Council.” What a great way to start a new term.

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Harbour View Land

Today a presentation was made to the HMLB claiming “In 2003 Waitakere City Council were about to gift/handover 2.5 Hectares of land to Te Atatu Coalition Marae.” That is not the case and is a matter for consideration by a full Council. Here is my speech presented in Public Forum.

Mr Chairman, Board members, Ladies & Gentlemen
The Harbourview land was originally private land acquired by Auckland Harbour Board under the Public Works Act. Eventually ownership passed to Waitakere City Council.
In 1999 Chris Carter, MP for Te Atatu canvassed constituents for their views on the land’s future. The response was overwhelmingly in favour of preserving the land as a park similar to Cornwall Park available for all citizens, with no buildings other than toilets and essential amenities.
On 25 October 2000 Waitakere City Council voted that the land become an open space park.
In 2002 there were calls for a ferry terminal.
In February 2003 a 144 page document on the Open Space Management Plan was adopted. Ratepayers were levied $9 per annum for 5 years to sustain management of the park. In mid- 2003 a proposed plan change was advertised. (PC2) This included Reidentification of 2.5ha of Harbourview South Special Area to Marae Special Area. In November it was revealed there were 91 submissions –74 against, 17 for. Meetings went ahead with the public excluded.
In 2013 at a public meeting it was revealed there were plans for a $16m marae and associated commercial ventures. A number of resolutions were passed at that meeting but did not reach Auckland city Councillors.
It has been claimed this afternoon “In 2003 Waitakere City Council were about to gift/handover 2.5 Hectares of land to Te Atatu Coalition Marae.” I have seen no Council minutes that substantiate that claim.
If a marae and associated commercial activities are to be established, then Council should lease the land to the Te Atatu Coalition Marae at a commercial rental. If the land is gifted, ratepayers will lose control and ownership of land in which they currently have a 100% stake.
Mr Chairman, I am quite happy to answer any questions you or your fellow board members may wish to put to me on this matter.
Gary Osborne

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A FAMILIAR STORY?

A couple of years ago a well-known Government Department (won’t mention any names – they might check on my tax situation) entered a crew into the Dragon Boat Races in Auckland. The first race was against a Japanese crew and despite months and months of training on Lake Pupuke, they lost to the Japanese crew by the proverbial mile.

Discouraged by the huge loss, and with morale in tatters, senior government officials decided that the reason for the crushing defeat must be found and rectified. A project team was set up to investigate the problem and to recommend appropriate action.

Several months later the project team conjured up a conclusion from the muddy waters of despair. The problem was – they said – obvious. The Japanese team had eight people rowing and one person steering. The government crew had one person rowing – and eight people steering.

So they hired consultants to do a study of the crew structure.

Two million dollars and six months later they released their report. In essence, the report said too many people were steering and not enough were paddling.

So, to prevent another embarrassing loss the next year, the crew was restructured …… to one Chief Executive Steering Officer, three Senior Management Steering Officers, and four Steering Managers. A new quality performance system was set up for the paddler and an incentive programme put into place to make him a part of the team, and a key performer.

The next year the Japanese team won by two proverbial miles.

This time the senior government officials took decisive action.

The paddler was made redundant due to his ineffectual performance – the consultants received awards for excellence in restructuring, and all assets were sold with the proceeds being split between the senior government officials.

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AC LGOIMA Requests

Just under a month ago, on 9 September I put in a LGOIMA (Local Government Official Information & Meetings Act) request for information re Councillor and Local Board member salaries and allowances. The information required was fairly basic.
Section 13 of LGOIMA requires that a local authority shall respond “as soon as reasonably practicable, and in no case later than 20 working days after the day on which the request is received by that local authority.”
Here is the unsigned receipt for my request received on 12 September.
Dear Mr Osborne

Thank you for your request for information about elected members’ salaries and allowances for the 2015/16 financial year.

I have attached an information sheet on our processes and requirements under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987.

We will respond to your request within 20 working days of receipt of your request.

If you have further questions please feel free to contact the Privacy and Official Information Team on officialinformation@aucklandcouncil.govt.nz or 09 301 0101, quoting reference 8140000434.

Kind regards

Privacy & LGOIMA Team
On 16 September I rang to find out what stage my request had reached. I spoke to Manoj Ragupathy, Manager Privacy and Official Information, and upon asking him who was in charge of my request, was told “We have 20 working days to respond.” Upon asking him what progress had been made so far I was told “We are working on it.” I was then told to put any questions I had in writing.
On 19 September I emailed the following 2 questions:
1. Who is processing my request?
2. What stage has it reached?
On 21 September I was advised Philip Jones, Call Centre Manager, had instructed Call Centre staff not to put forward any of my calls to the Call Centre.
On 22 September, having received no response I complained to Stephen Town, Chief Executive. Rather than address the complaint he made a number of allegations against me.
On 23 September I wrote to him calling for substantiation or retraction.
On 27 September Dayle Muru, Auckland Council, rang me to say any correspondence with Council was to go through her. I said Mr Town had made the allegations. I expected him to respond to my letter to him. I have since instructed my lawyer to write to him directly.
At this stage I have still not received a reply to my email of 19 September and tomorrow will be the 20th working day.
Ironically I have already obtained much of the information I sought without the help of Council. It is available on Council’s own website.
http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/AboutCouncil/representativesbodies/electedrepresentatives/Documents/mileage-reimbursementsjan-june2016.pdf
However this only covers 6 months of the period I sought.
Perhaps LGOIMA staff could be trained in use of Council’s website as a starting base for information sought.

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