It is well known within Auckland Council that Len Brown has an army of bureaucrats to shield him from criticism or awkward questions. Just how effective an investigation into Len Brown’s conduct will be, depends on the terms of reference and the manner in which the investigation is carried out.
In my own case, I had my emails to elected representatives blocked without their knowledge for a period of eight months at the direction of Doug McKay, Chief Executive, Auckland Council. I was insistent on the need for an independent enquiry.
How effective was the “investigation”?
Judge for yourself.
19 January 2011
Meeting between Doug McKay and myself. I raised 2 long-held concerns:
1. Council interpretation of the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act.
2. Involvement of Tony Tay in Auckland Film Studios Limited.
1 February 2011
Tony Tay Film Ltd (major partner of AFSL) went into liquidation.
4 February 2011
Email from Doug McKay to me saying “As you predicted. Where to from here is what’s exercising my mind. Any ideas welcome.” (More detail can be found in previous posts in this blog.)
8 February 2013
I discovered my emails to Local Board members and Councillors within Auckland Council were being blocked and had been for some time.
21 February 2013
I sent the following email to Doug McKay. “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 any opportunity to request that their emails not be blocked?”
28 February 2013
I addressed the full Council on the blocking of my emails. It was resolved to “Refer the complaint regarding censorship to the Chief Executive for investigation and a report back.”
1 March 2013
NZ Herald reported Mr McKay had claimed the Council had not blocked or censored anybody’s email.
4 March 2013
I complained to Hon Chris Tremain, Minister of Local Government.
13 March 2013
I addressed the Accountability and Performance committee calling for an independent enquiry. Half way through my speech, the Chairman, Richard Northey ordered that my microphone be turned off.
15 March 2013
Doug McKay wrote to another ratepayer “There was never an intention to block emails or withhold information from elected members.”
21 March 2013
A unanimous motion was passed by the Waitakere Grey Power branch “that this Association of Grey Power Federation New Zealand (inc) requests the Auckland Council to initiate an independent enquiry into censorship of ratepayer communications.”
26 March 2013
I sent an email to Len Brown asking if there had been a report back to Council and, if so, could I please have a copy.
27 March 2013
I sent a follow-up letter to Hon Chris Tremain, Minister of Local Government.
2 April 2013
I received an email from Jason Marris, Acting Manager Democracy Services, enclosing a letter dated 28 March purporting to be “in response to the 28 February 2013 Governing Body resolution.”
15 April 2013
Anna Bird, Mayor’s Office, advised Waitakere Grey Power Association “The Chief Executive has reported back to Auckland Council’s governing body on the investigation, and a copy of this report has been sent to Mr Osborne directly.”
22 April 2013
I wrote to Len Brown about the inadequacy of the response on 2 April and asked if he was satisfied with it. He responded “Given that Mr McKay has yet to finalise his report and the governing body has yet to review its findings, it would therefore be inappropriate for me to comment further.”
23 May 2013
Another report entitled “Review of external customer, elected member and staff communications” was presented by Doug McKay to the full Council. It made no attempt to address the actual blocking of my emails to elected representatives and no attempt was made to contact me or other ratepayers who had had their emails blocked for our input. A copy of the report was not forwarded to me and I had to find it by searching the Council website. I published it on this blog in the June 2013 archives under the heading “Six Pages of Flannel.”
12 July 2013
I wrote to all Councillors expressing my dissatisfaction with the “investigation” and saying I believed I was due an apology. – see archives July 3013 “Auckland Council Censorship 5.”
6 August 2013
The NZ Bill of Rights 1990 states under Section 13
“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, and belief including the right to adopt and to hold opinions without interference.”
Section 14 states “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.”
I complained to the Human Rights Commission that my rights under Section 13 and 14 had been violated. The redress I sought was:
1. An apology
2. An assurance there would be no recurrence
3. Censure of the Chief Executive
7 August 2013
The NZ Human Rights Commission advised me the best course of action was to seek legal advice or contact the Ombudsman.
8 August 2013
I asked why the HR Commission was not prepared to investigate breaches of Sections 13 and 14 of the Bill of Rights.
14 August 2013
I lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman.
29 August 2013
I was advised by Hilary Unwin of the NZ Human Rights Commission re Sections 13 and 14 “these rights are not within the jurisdiction of the Commission.”
26 September 2013
Inter alia, the Ombudsman’s office advised me “it is unlikely that the Ombudsman will have the authority to investigate the Council’s final decision on this matter.”
My emails to elected representatives were blocked for 8 months at the direction of the Chief Executive.
My complaint to a full Council on 28 February 2013 triggered an “investigation.”
The terms of reference ignored the complaint.
My request was simple and straight forward.
I have had further discussions with the Ombudsman’s office today.
I am told the “investigation” cost in excess of $50,000.