On 1 November 2012 when Lester Levy took over the reins as Chairman of the Board of Auckland Transport, he inherited an arrogant dismissive regime that had established itself in a short period of two years with a culture of excuse rather than explanation.
That same day, 1 November, I put 9 questions to my Local Board regarding costs for the Te Atatu Corridor project.
On 2 November Michael Riley, AT, wrote me a gratuitous cease and desist letter.
This was despite the fact that I had been asked a year earlier to restrict all my correspondence with AT to either Owena Schuster or Roger Wilson.
I sent an appropriate response to Mr Riley.
On 26 November I rang Mr Riley and asked who had authorised the sending of his letter. His reply was “several people.” I sent an email complaint to David Warburton, CEO, AT.
On 28 November I sent three specific questions to David Warburton with a copy to Lester Levy.
On 29 November Vanessa Neeson, Chair HMLB, answered two of the questions I had posed a month earlier and said the rest had been referred to AT and “we await their reply.”
Michael Riley rang me at 12.25 pm and said he was preparing a response for me.
Various attempts to contact David Warburton were to no avail.
I spoke to Nirelle Cooper, David Warburton’s PA and asked when I was likely to receive a response from David Warburton. She said she could not give a time frame. I sent an email to David Warburton with a copy to Lester Levy. I invited David to ring me on my given number.
On 30 November at 3.31 pm I received a dismissive reply from David Warburton.
At 3.53 pm I sent an email to Lester Levy inviting him to discuss the matter with me and provided my phone number.
On 12 December I put in a formal complaint to Lester Levy, asking him to forward me a copy of the email purported by Sheryll Giles, Customer Response Representative, to have been sent to me by Michael Riley on 30 November. I told her I hadn’t received it. I also put to him the 3 specific questions I had put to David Warburton on 26 November.
On 13 December I contacted Owena Schuster for some follow-up on my questions of 1 November.
On 18 December Owena Schuster advised me “We apologise for the delay. AT is working on your questions and will be sending you a response in due course.”
AT is often long on promises and short on delivery.
On 21 December Roger Wilson advised me AT required me to lodge $1900 into their account before they would consider my questions posed to the HMLB on
On 22 December I sent the following email to Lester Levy:
“This letter to you has a two-fold purpose — one regarding my complaint to you on 12 December regarding the CEO and one regarding the letter received by me yesterday from Roger Wilson, Elected Member Liaison Manager.
- a) Could you please advise what stage your investigation into my complaint of 12 December has reached.
b) Could I please have a copy of the email Sheryll Giles claimed had been sent to me by Michael Riley on 30 November.
c) Could you please advise when I am likely to receive an answer to my 3 specific questions put to you in my letter of 12 December.
- I am outraged by the request for $1900 from me for Auckland Transport to
answer the seven questions put to the Henderson-Massey Local Board on 1
November regarding the financing of the Te Atatu Road Corridor project. The
reason I have not taken the matter up with the CEO is because he is currently
under investigation by you.
Do you support the request for $1900?”
His reply later that day was:
“I have now had the opportunity to look into your complaint of the 12th December 2012. I will answer your points in the same numbered order in which you presented them at the time.
- I have read Michael Riley’s letter of 2nd November 2012 carefully and in my view I do not believe it is threatening. I believe he has made a real effort to be constructive in his letter. Perhaps, he could have commenced his numbered point two by saying ‘It would be helpful if you could…’ rather than ‘Please desist…’. Given that this is a complex issue that is being dealt with, you may interpret the letter differently.
- David Warburton has already addressed this point in his response to you noting that this correspondence with you is in line with individual’s authorisations.
- David Warburton has also addressed this point in his response to you and from a governance perspective I have responded to this point in 1 above.
I will make a request of David Warburton to ensure you receive a copy of the e-mail Michael Riley sent to you on the 30th November 2012, as advised to you by Sheryll Giles. As many executive staff are away for the holiday period there may be a delay in receiving this, but I will ask that this be attended as soon as possible.
With respect to your request for information, the response is an executive decision and my concern from a governance perspective is to ensure that the request for the charges is in accordance with the law and Auckland Transport’s policies. Recovery of costs in these circumstances is provided for in law. Roger Williams (later corrected to Wilson) has suggested options open to you and of course you may request the Chief Executive to review this issue.
In concluding, I would reflect that my experience is that differences of opinion are best resolved by measured and constructive dialogue (face to face) at the appropriate point in the organisation where the delegated authorities to deal with the issues reside.
I do not think David Warburton has acted inappropriately.
Best wishes for the festive season and wishing you a happy and successful 2013.”