My original complaint to the Local Government Commissioner on 19 April 2011 sat in the Local Government Commission office until I rang Wellington on 26 April to be told it was a matter that was appropriate for the Mayor or CEO of Auckland Council. No-one in Council seemed to know who Board Chairs were directly accountable to. I have been told they are accountable to the voters every three years but I was looking for something with a much shorter time-frame.
My email to Len Brown enclosed the complaint and when I rang to enquire about its progress two days later the obfuscation and procrastination began. On Friday 29 April Phil Wilson, Chief of Staff, advised me at 4.54 pm he would endeavour to have a response to me by close of business Tuesday 3 May.
On Saturday 30 April I was rung by a Research Company and asked to participate in a phone survey on complaints for Auckland Council. I asked if it had been commissioned by Auckland Council and the answer was in the affirmative. I said I was willing to participate so long as I would later be provided with a copy of the questions and answers.
Here are the questions: (Responses were given by numbers.)
Q 1. Just to check, did you interact with someone at the Council personally on this matter? That means they met you in person, sent you a personal letter or email, or you talked to them on the phone.
- No personal interactions
- Only bill received
Q 2. Do you generally vote in Auckland Council elections?
- Prefer not to answer
Q 3. Are you a Council ratepayer?
Q 4. Before we begin looking at your specific experiences with the council, please tell me how much you agree with the following two statements, where 1 means “Strongly disagree” and 5 means “Strongly agree’.
- Overall I have a good ability to influence Auckland decisions
- Overall I trust Auckland Council to make right decisions
Q 5. For this question 1 means “Very dissatisfied’ and 5 means “Very satisfied”
- Very dissatisfied
- Don’t know/Can’t say***DO NOT READ OUT***
Q 6. Now thinking about your recent interaction with the Council regarding your complaint. What was your main purpose for this interaction?
- To obtain some information
- To obtain help or advice
- To request a specific service
- To notify the Council regarding an issue
- To make a complaint
- Some other purpose please (specify) ***DO NOT READ OUT***
Q 7. In what ways have you interacted with the Council on this matter? You can choose more than one answer?
- By letter or fax
- By ringing their Call Centre
- By some other contact via telephone or cellphone
- By visiting their website
- By email
- By visiting a council office and talking to a council officer
- By talking to or receiving a visit from a council officer or council contractor face-to-face outside their offices
- By looking at a brochure or information pack from the Council
- Received an inspection by the Council
- Don’t know/Not applicable
Q 8. If 1 means “Very dissatisfied “ and 5 means “Very satisfied” , how satisfied were you with your interactions with the Council using this method…?
- Very dissatisfied”
- Very satisfied
Q 11. Did you send an email?
- Don’t know/can’t recall
Q 12. Did you send an email to…?
- A Council email address
- A specific Council staff member
- Can’t recall
Q 13. Have you received a response to your email?
Q 35. Thinking about all your interactions with Auckland Council on this matter, would you say this has been…?
- Relatively simple and straightforward
- Somewhat complicated
- Very complicated
- Too early to judge/Can’t really say/Don’t know
Q 36. How many interactions have you had with Auckland Council regarding this matter? eg. If you initially contacted them and they later rang you back, that would be counted as two interactions. But if you got the answer you needed on your first call, it would be counted as one interaction.
- 4 or 5
- 6 to 10
- Over 10
Q 37. Bearing in mind the matter involved, was this number of interactions acceptable to you?
- Can’t really say
Q 38. Did you interact with the Council in a business capacity or as a private individual on this matter?
Q 39. In your view, is this matter now…?
- Fully resolved
- Partially resolved
- Not resolved at all
- Don’t know
Q 50. Was the length of time to get a response acceptable to you?
- Can’t recall/don’t know
Q 53. Did the response you received from the Council address the issues you raised?
- Can’t recall/Don’t know
Q 54. Regardless of the outcome, how satisfied are you that your viewpoint was heard? For this question 1 means “Very dissatisfied” and 5 means “Very satisfied”.
- Very dissatisfied
- Very satisfied
- Don’t know/can’t say
Q 55. If the council made a mistake, do you feel they took accountability and acknowledged this?
- Not applicable – no mistake involved
Q 58. Did they promise any follow up actions?
Q 59. Have these follow up actions happened?
- No –its probably too early for this to have happened
- No –this should have happened by now
Q 89. Summarising your experiences with Auckland Council regarding your complaint, I will read you some statements about the delivery of this service. Please tell me the extent to which you agree with each statement, where 1 means “Strongly disagree” and 5 means “Strongly agree”. If you dealt with more than one staff member, please give me a rating overall.
- Staff were competent
- Staff did what they said they would do
- I was treated fairly
- I feel my individual circumstances were taken into account
- It’s an example of good value for tax dollars spent –CLARIFY IF NECESSARY: By tax dollars we mean Council rates
- It was easy to access advice or information from the Council
- Staff listened to me and found exactly what I wanted
- They responded in a timely manner
- Their approach was professional
- Staff kept me informed on the progress of this matter
- Overall they were very helpful regarding this matter
Monday 2 May
I received an email from “X” at 6.12 pm advising that Phil Wilson had referred the matter on to him and as he would be out of the office on Tuesday he would email me on Wednesday. With regards to the information promised by “A” he referred me to Council’s website:
There is no mention there of complaints which are the direct responsibility of the Mayor or CEO.
Tuesday 3 May
1.58 pm I rang “G” and asked to speak directly to Doug McKay. I was told it was going through to voicemail. I then asked to speak to “B” but was told she was in a meeting. I then asked to leave a message but was told by “G” they had instructions not to take any messages from me.
2.13 pm I emailed Doug McKay and asked if he had issued such instructions.
2.35 pm His reply was “No, not me Gary.”
2.45 pm I sent an email LGOIMA request asking who had issued the instructions and for a copy of them
2.59 pm I asked “M” to put me through to Phil Wilson. She asked what it was about. After 2 minutes of canned music I was told he was not in his office. I asked to be put through to “X” on his cellphone and was cut off.
3.05 pm “Y” put me through to “X” who told me they were still investigating whom Board Chairs were directly accountable to. He would email me tomorrow.
Wednesday 4 May
9.20 am I spoke to “Z” and asked to be put through to “O”. After 2 minutes of canned music I was told she was in a meeting. I then asked for Phil Wilson. “A1” spoke to me and told me he was unavailable. I then asked for Yvonne Parlane, Doug McKay’s PA. I was told she was away from her desk.
9.27 am I spoke to “D” and asked to speak to “B”. “B” told me a letter had gone out to me on Monday re my complaint. I said I had not received it and asked for an email copy.
9.38 am The copy arrived but the information provided by Megan Tyler, Relationship Manager, Henderson-Massey Board, was inaccurate. Copies had been sent to the Mayor, Vanessa Neeson, Chair Henderson-Massey Local Board, and Karen Lyons, Manager Local Board Services.
9.57 am I asked “I” to put me through to Karen Lyons. I went through canned music
then “Our instructions are….” I asked to speak to “O”, the person who had issued the
instructions. I was told she would email me.
10.24 am I sent email to Len Brown with a copy to Doug McKay informing him the report was inaccurate.
10.30 am I rang Emma Joyce, Henderson-Massey Local Board Committee Secretary I asked her if she had been asked to discuss my complaint against Vanessa Neeson. She said the first she knew of it was when Megan Tyler had run the letter she was sending out past her. She said she saw nothing wrong with the letter. I asked for Karen Lyons’ phone number. I also asked Emma who Board Chairs were directly accountable to and she said it was debatable.
I spoke to Karen Lyons’ PA, Polly Kenrick who said Karen was in a meeting but she would get her to ring me.
2.25 pm I received an email from Rodney Hide’s office advising me, in terms of presiding over meetings, Local Board Chairs are directly accountable to Local Board members.
2.36 pm “X” sent me a copy of the Code of Conduct and suggested this was what I had been looking for. He also said my letter hand-delivered on 29 April had not been received by the Mayor’s office until 3 May.
2.37 pm Phil Wilson sent me an email advising me “X” would handle my complaint professionally
4.22 pm Polly Kenrick sent me an email saying Karen Lyons would ring tomorrow.
7.17 pm I sent a copy of the Local Government Commission Office letter to Phil Wilson and noted he had still not informed me whom Board Chairs were directly accountable to.
Thursday 5 May
3.40 pm Karen Lyons rang to say she was unlikely to be recommending Doug McKay should treat my complaint as a Code of Conduct complaint. I asked her to follow that up with an email.
Friday 6 May
10.05 am As no email had arrived from Karen Lyons I rang 3010101 and asked “B1” to put me through to Doug McKay. She asked if it was about a complaint. I said it was. She said she could not put me through. I then asked for “X” and left a message on his voicemail asking him to ring me.
12.25 pm I got an email from Karen Lyons saying “I do not believe this is a code of conduct issue.” She also said “K” would “like the opportunity to discuss with you your overall engagement with Auckland Council.”
1.02 pm I sent an email to Karen Lyons – copies to Doug McKay, Len Brown and “X” asking if any other Board members had been consulted on this matter.
1.05 pm I spoke to “C1”. Asked for Karen Lyons. Unavailable.
1.10 pm Asked “M” to put me through to Yvonne Parlane. “Will she know what it’s about?” — yes — canned music for 4 minutes then I left a message for Yvonne to ring me.
1.15 pm Rang Karen Lyons 373 6398. There was a message “Your call is unable to proceed at this time. Please try again later.”
1.16 pm Rang 373 6398 This time the message was that Karen was unavailable but by pressing “0” you would be transferred to her PA, Mary Tolich. I pressed “0” and got a new message. “Thank you for calling Polly, PA to Karen Lyons, I’m out of the office today.” It did however give another number to ring – Lisa Loan, Administration Reporting on 357 1747. Unfortunately there was another message “I’m currently on the phone.”
1.37 pm I rang Lisa Loan again. This time “I’m away from my desk or on the phone at the moment. Leave a message and I’ll get back shortly.”
1.40 pm Same series of messages.
1.42 pm Left message for my call to be returned URGENTLY.
1.52 pm Lisa Loan rang and said Karen Lyons would return my call but it wouldn’t be straight away.
2.15 pm Karen Lyons rang and said she was not prepared to send an email confirming she had not consulted any other Board members about my complaint. She would prefer me to wait for a formal response.