Auckland Council Censorship 5

On 28 February 2013 I complained to a full Council meeting about the censorship of my emails to elected representatives.

On 13 March I attempted to address the Performance and Accountability committee calling for an independent investigation.

On 21 March I expressed my concerns at my local Grey power meeting and it was passed unanimously “That this branch of Grey Power requests Auckland Council to initiate an independent enquiry into censorship of rate payer communications.”

On 2 April I was sent an unsigned document dated 2013 that was a memo from Doug McKay to the Mayor and Councillors under the title “Customer Case Management.”

On 15 April Anna Bird from the office of the Mayor sent a letter to the Secretary of the Waitakere Grey Power Association stating “Doug McKay, Chief Executive of Auckland Council, has already carried out an investigation into complaints regarding the case management of correspondence from Gary Osborne and others. The Chief Executive has reported back to Auckland Council’s governing body and the investigation, and a copy of this report has been sent to Mr Osborne directly.”

On 22 April I wrote to Len Brown expressing my concern about the inadequacy of the report and asked for his comment.

On 8 May Len Brown advised me it would be inappropriate to comment as the report wasn’t yet complete. (despite the comments from Anna Bird on 15 April!)

On 23 May a report was presented to Council that did not address the specific complaint I had made on 28 February – the censorship of my emails to elected representatives without the knowledge of myself or the intended recipients.

On 12 July I sent the following email to all Councillors except Michael Goudie

“TO ALL COUNCILLORS EXCEPT MICHAEL GOUDIE
Michael Goudie has requested that I “reframe” from sending him any correspondence.

I was concerned to learn in early February 2013 that my emails to elected representatives had been blocked for the previous 8 months.

On 21 February I sent the following email to Doug McKay.
“Dear Doug,
I understand that my emails to Councillors and Local Board members have been blocked for about 8 months.
1. Why was this instigated?
2. Why did no discussion take place on this with Councillors or Local Board members before its inception?
3. Were Councillors or Local Board members afforded an opportunity to request that their emails not be blocked?
Yours sincerely,
Gary Osborne”

On 28 February, having received no response, I addressed a full Council meeting on the issue. Councillors voted unanimously that the Governing Body “Refer the complaint regarding censorship to the Chief Executive for investigation and a report back.”

On 4 March I received an email from Bruce Thomas, Public Information Manager, enclosing a letter signed by Bruce Thomas, Electoral Officer, answering the questions addressed to Doug McKay on 21 February as follows:
1. As advised in an email sent to you on 22 June 2012, the case managing of your emails was instigated to manage the large volume of correspondence generated.
2. It was a decision of the Chief Executive.
3. Yes, recently the Elected Members were afforded opportunity.

This was unsatisfactory for the following reasons:
1. The letter sent to me on 22 June 2012 was dated 19 June 2012 and read
“Darryl,
I confirm my previous verbal advice that you are assigned to case manage Mr Gary Osborne and respond to any inquiry lodged with Auckland Council by telephone, email, in person or in writing by him.
Please ensure that Mr Osborne, Customer Services (including the call centres) and the Mayor’s Office are aware of this directive.
Doug McKay.”
Nowhere in that letter was there any mention of elected representatives and I therefore had no reason to know that my emails to them were blocked from that date. Otherwise I would have objected earlier. As to the “volume of correspondence”, my emails to elected representatives were in the main one line entries drawing their attention to the most recent post on my blog.
2. I thought it was the function of elected representatives to direct the Chief Executive, not vice versa.
3. Councillors were unaware of the blocking until I raised the matter on 28 February.

On 13 March I attempted to address the Performance and Accountability Committee on the need for an independent enquiry but was shut down half way through my speech. The full speech can be seen here
http://www.accountabilitynz.wordpress.com/2013/03/13/auckland-council-censorship-4/

On 15 March Doug McKay wrote to another ratepayer saying “There was never an intention to block emails or withhold information from elected members.”

On 26 March I wrote to Len Brown asking if a report from Doug McKay had been forthcoming. I received an email from Jason Marris, Acting Manager Democracy Services, saying the Chief Executive would report back in the near future.

On 2 April I received a “response to 28 February 2013 Governing Body resolution” from Jason Marris.

On 22 April I wrote a detailed letter to Len Brown expressing my dissatisfaction with the report and asked if he was satisfied with it.

On 8 May Len Brown responded that Mr McKay was yet to finalise his report and it would be inappropriate for him to comment.

On 23 May a report was presented to a full Council meeting with the stated purpose
“To report back on the review of the management of customer communications, and to seek approval for a policy to manage the interaction with customers who have higher demands on council resources.” It can be seen on my blog under the title of “Auckland Council Six Pages of Flannel”
One of the galling aspects of the report was the creation of a class of behaviour referred to as UCC – unreasonable complainant conduct. It claims there are “on average no more than ten annually, complainants who make numerous complaints and regularly seek information requests.”
On 28 February Doug McKay told a Herald reporter that since the start of the Auckland Council, three people, including Mr Osborne and Ms Haden had been “case managed”. He claimed the council had not blocked or censored anybody’s email. He said it was within his power to stop councillors receiving emails that contained inappropriate legal material.
It must be remembered that my complaint to a full Council meeting was about the blocking of my emails to my elected representatives for a period of 8 months, without the knowledge of either myself or the intended recipients. The “investigation” did little to address why this had been allowed to happen and who was responsible.

Considerable lengths were gone to in an attempt to justify the censorship of other emails but it must be remembered my concern was the blocking of my emails to my elected representatives.

It also seems there is confusion within the Council as to just who does what.
It should be remembered that I sent three specific questions to Doug McKay on 21 February regarding the blocking of emails to elected representatives. Having had no response I addressed a full Council meeting a week later.

The responses have been inconsistent.
On 1 March the Herald reported Mr McKay claimed there had been no blocking or censoring of anybody’s email, just case management for three people since the start of the council. It also stated some councillors had asked not to receive emails from certain people.
On 4 March Mr Thomas, on behalf of Mr McKay, in response to my question asking when blocking of emails to elected representatives had been instigated, informed me it was done in June 2012 and I had been informed. That was certainly not the case. He said the decision had been made by Doug McKay.
Contrary to that, on 15 March Mr McKay claimed “There was never an intention to block emails or withhold information from elected members.”

I am not satisfied with this investigation.
I believe I am due an apology
1. Could you please acknowledge receipt of this email
2. Any comments you have would be appreciated.
3. Should Councillors not insist that Mr McKay fully investigate the matter of censorship of emails to elected representatives including testimony from all people who have had their emails censored (blocked or case managed or whatever euphemism is chosen) I shall refer the matter to the Human Rights Commissioner.

Yours sincerely,
Gary Osborne
Auckland Council Ratepayer”

I have received one acknowledgement of receipt but no comments.
I shall write to the Human Rights Commissioner this week end.

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