Wellington Scoop

Horowhenua district council accused of operating email black list

News from NZ Labour Party
Otaki Labour Candidate Rob McCann is calling on the Horowhenua District Council to halt the sale of the Pensioner Flats following revelations leaked from an internal Audit Report, and has asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate.

“If the audit findings reported by RNZ are correct, the Council has indulged in some extremely risky practices, including the Chief Executive operating an email black list. People and agencies placed on that blacklist allegedly had their email intercepted and the decision whether to edit or block those emails was allegedly made by the CE. Frankly that is not acceptable in a public organization.”

The internal audit seems to raise serious allegations about the Horowhenua District Council and the manner in which it operates.

“If the audit is correct,” says Mr McCann, “it would seem that unelected officials have overstepped their authority, and could potentially be creating an environment where there is not the freedom to legitimately question council decisions, and or receive independent advice.

“Given the importance of the decision to sell the Pensioner Housing, this decision should be immediately put on hold while an investigation into the manner in which the council operates is conducted.”

Mr McCann says not putting the sale on hold could make the Council’s actions subject to expensive judicial review.

“There are already serious concerns about this sale, with much of the process kept secret. Concerns raised with me include:

• The lack of community consultation
• The fire-sale price of $5.5 million (book value of $9.2 million)
• That the provision of social housing is now only guaranteed for 12 years
• That Housing NZ have supposedly agreed that the suspensory loan does not require the purchaser to be a Social Housing Provider
• That ten of the current Pensioner Houses are not required to remain social housing in the contract for sale
• That a parcel of land being sold off with the flats is not required to be developed as social housing
• That the purchasers are fronted by a Property Development Company
• That at the time the purchaser was selected by HDC, the ownership of the new company (and therefore the pensioner Flats) was not agreed upon by the parties and that this negotiation occurred in the media
• That there could be a potential conflict of interest with councilors or staff possibly owning adjoining land to that which is being sold
• That the properties will not remain Pensioner Housing as originally promised by HDC, and in order to access the supplementary accommodation benefit the housing will need to become ‘social housing’
• That existing wrap around services already existed and an out of town provider will not add to this

“The audit alleges practices which are not just highly unusual,” says Mr McCann, “they are wrong. Any organisation needs free and frank advice to operate effectively. Checks and balances are required to counter any one person having too much influence, and to ensure policies are followed correctly to ensure there is not corruption.”

News from Democracy Action
Pro-democracy lobby group, Democracy Action, says that details reported by Radio New Zealand which allege Horowhenua District Council CEO David Clapperton has been surreptitiously intercepting and blocking emails sent and received by elected officials amount to serious misconduct and, if true, warrant his immediate resignation.

Democracy Action Spokesman Lee Short, says, “It is simply extraordinary that a Council CEO could intercept emails with the support of the Council’s IT staff. This breaches the confidence of every citizen who has emailed elected officials.”

“It is vital to democracy that citizens are able to communicate freely with their elected representatives. This is a major breach of trust and suggests a disregard of democracy and elected governance.”

1 comment:

  1. Brian Dawson, 18. July 2017, 7:28

    On the face of it this looks truly appalling. If anything like it happened at WCC there would be hell to pay….[via twitter]