Following the threatening letter from Sally Fitzgerald, Partner, Russell McVeagh, received by me on 23 August, upon clearing my letterbox on Monday 27 August I found the following letter from Sally Fitzgerald dated 24 August on a Russell McVeagh letterhead.
“Dear Mr Osborne,
RE:WATER METER – 9 ASCOT AVENUE
- We have been passed a copy of your formal complaint to the Watercare Chief Executive, which appears to have crossed with our letter delivered by courier yesterday. We are also in receipt of your email of yesterday afternoon.
- Mr Ford is satisfied that his staff have acted in an appropriate manner in view of the volume of calls that you have made in respect of a matter that was rectified within 30 minutes of bringing it to Watercares’s attention.
- Watercare believes that it has fully answered your repeated verbal and written requests for information and accordingly does not propose to engage in further communications on this matter. However, it is clear that you are not satisfied, so to enable you to challenge Watercare’s position, the company has treated your requests as being formal requests under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act 1987 (“Act”). This enables you to have Watercare’s position reviewed by the Ombudsman (see section 27 of the Act, which notes that, whilst a complaint to the Ombudsman may be made orally or in writing, any oral complaint must be put into writing).
- We note your request for information under the Privacy Act, which we will respond to separately.
NZ LAW SOCIETY
On 27 August I emailed a copy of the letter of 23 Aug from Sally Fitzgerald with the accompanying comments:
“I was perturbed to receive this letter by Courier on Thursday 23 August. It is the sort of letter that one might expect from a junior law clerk, but not a Partner.
Two further Courier visits were made to me within the space of an hour in an attempt to retrieve the letter.
I am particularly concerned about Clause 9.”
On 28 August at 9.14 am I received the following email:
“Hello Mr Osborne,
What is your concern about Clause 9?
New Zealand Law Society”
At 11.50 am I replied
“Dear Mr Ellis,
The letter has been based on hearsay.
There are numerous factual inaccuracies contained in the assertions.
I have asked for justification of the various allegations made in the letter.
I have been ignored.
Russell McVeagh is firing shots at me without any justification and then bullying me by threatening police action.
Clause 9 claims, without any evidence, I have intimidated Watercare staff.
It then compounds the situation by threatening to go to the police.”
A few minutes later Mr Ellis rang me suggesting this was really a matter between Watercare and me, not Sally Fitzgerald and me. I disagreed and said I would be lodging a formal complaint with the Law Society.
POLICE, COUNCILLORS AND LOCAL BOARD MEMBERS
A copy of the threatening letter from Sally Fitzgerald was sent to the Police and all Auckland Councillors and all Auckland Council Local Board members.
On the Official Complaints Form for the NZ Law Society Clause 5 states:
“ATTEMPTS TO RESOLVE THE COMPLAINT
Have you discussed this complaint with the lawyer?
If ‘yes’ what was the outcome?”
On 28 August at 1.30 pm I rang and left a message asking Sally Fitzgerald to return my call.
At 2.10 pm Sally rang me and I asked if she was prepared to withdraw her allegations and threats and apologise. She said she would need to take instructions from her client.
At 2.25 pm she rang me again and said she was prepared to do so. I said it would need to be in writing.
At 2.51 pm I received the following email (NOT on a Russell McVeagh letterhead)
“Gary, I refer to our telephone discussion just now. There has obviously been a difference of view between yourself and Watercare as to the nature of earlier communications between yourself and certain Watercare staff.
As we discussed, I am happy to offer you my apology in respect of recent correspondence. As discussed, the allegations I made in the letter are withdrawn.
As well also discussed (and as was noted in our earlier correspondence), our client has confirmed that it has treated your recent requests for information as formal requests for official information, such if you are not satisfied with the responses provided to date, it is now open to you to refer the matter to the Ombudsman.
I despatched copies of that to The NZ Law Society, Police, Councillors and Local Board members.
I still don’t have specific answers to the 8 specific questions asked on 9 August.
My reasons for wanting them were made quite clear in my complaint to the Chief Executive of Watercare, Mark Ford, on 23 August.