The facts, however, are just as damning as they were before, if not more so.
We still have a chief executive who screened some emails that were either confidential or of no relevance to his staff. KPMG’s report – reviewing the work of an auditor who raised concerns about practices he considered “extremely high risk” – changes none of that.
Apart from not supporting his contentions with documents, the main criticism of the internal auditor is that he went beyond the call of duty. He did what his terms of reference suggested he might do – he flagged “any other issues” that could pose a risk to the council.
KPMG noted the auditor commented on things he was not really employed to look at. If he noticed things that didn’t have much to do with sensitive expenditure, he could have simply told senior management, for example.
Ironically, KPMG then offered its own view on this “out of scope” material – that the council should stop intercepting emails and it should come up with better ways to protect staff from abuse.
That means two auditors in a row were not comfortable with the council’s approach.
KPMG’s report also sheds light on who was behind the expansion of the council’s email-interception practices into contentious territory. When Brendan Duffy was mayor, he “arranged” for councillors Michael Feyen and Ross Campbell’s emails into the council to be vetted. In 2015, Duffy said messages from the two councillors were unacceptable, so their emails would be screened for the rest of the term.
Feyen would later become a mayoralty candidate – a rival to Duffy – but it would seem it occurred to nobody at this point that the policy should be reviewed.
The council has now quietly conceded defeat, abandoning its controversial practices. But if Clapperton is to carry on leading the council, there is only one appropriate response to KPMG’s report – contrition.
As this debacle ticks along, the majority of HDC Councillors it seems are in full support of CEO Clapperton concerning the Horowhenua email monitoring. (If you’re not up to speed with that an internal audit recently revealed that the CE had been monitoring & diverting emails and blocking some senders, to the outrage surprisingly, of mainstream. Read about the issue here and here). Nobody is even advocating an audit to reassure the public all’s well. After all, what’s to hide and wouldn’t an audit put it all to rest? The said emails we were told recently by an elected Councillor were only monitored to protect staff from abuse (without their or the senders’ knowledge). One mainstream editorial comments that “One of the more troubling things about the … email-snooping fiasco is that councillors have had some knowledge of it for years.” Whatever happened to word-blocking software? Instead HDC assigns the task to a $250K salaried CEO. There was only a handful of emails we have also been told, which seems to somehow make it more legit. Plus, not all emails have been intercepted. The Council (not specifically the CE I note) did apologize subsequently regarding the number of emails monitored (not ALL) as reported by mainstream however it appears now to be leaning more towards general denial. These said Councillors are the same ones who mysteriously could not make it to the council meeting just two days after the leak of this disturbing issue to media (the first missed meeting in six years we were told) where it was rumoured the said internal audit report could be tabled in which case the public would get to read it. These are also the same Councillors who declined to open the financial books to the public. Who think it’s perfectly fine for non elected members to advise elected members how to vote (couldthreewhistle blowers on that really be wrong? see also here.) Who also are totally fine with all but gifting the public owned housing assets to a private developer’s front company, cheap it appears, because they may need repairs in twenty odd years. Caring people indeed. The public of course had no say whatsoever in that on account of it all being conducted in secret and the one person who was not, indeed has never been, in favour of the sale, was thrown off the housing committee early in the piece so much for democracy. We only want people on our committee who are in agreement with our agenda. This is fascist people and not the first time it’s happened. The Mayor did try to highlight that at the rolling-of-his-deputy occasion however was rudely interrupted by a Councillor. Interesting, especially given neither mainstream nor anybody else aside from myself has ever made any mention of it. And we can all now guess of course why the sale negotiations were conducted in secret. The public would have been outraged at the fire sale price and the clever Compassion Horowhenua front company. They sign and seal it, announce it to the public then batten down the hatches until it all blows over knowing there is nothing we can do about it.
The level of intelligence these people think we the public have is quite low … so low it’s laughable and the current email issue reminds me of Blackadder’s well known phrase “deny everything Baldrick”, here in the video clip I was fortunate enough to find still. Have a good laugh and ponder on the fact that surprisingly, mainstream media is not being so sympathetic this round. I’m a little suspicious on that but we will see what transpires in due course.
Here’s a link to another two and a half minute clip (the one below is cropped to half a minute).
There are more links to the story within this article. Search our LG Watch pages at the main menu for historical matters. Further articles can also be found by using categories to the left, or the search box. At the Nua FB page also has a good up to date chronology of mainstream media’s coverage of this issue. EnvirowatchHorowhenua
Chief executives from councils in the lower North Island see no reason for intercepting emails – a practice Horowhenua District Council’s boss uses to “protect” his staff.
In an audit report, Horowhenua council chief executive David Clapperton was shown to be intercepting emails from members of the public, Horowhenua’s mayor and councillors.
He would block emails, redirect them, or let them continue to their intended destinations, which he said was “necessary to protect my employees so they can carry out their roles safely without undue interference, inappropriate criticism and racist slurs”.
In some cases, the council did not inform people that their emails were being intercepted, according to multiple sources.
A council’s interception of politicians’ emails is a “constitutional outrage”, a legal expert says.
Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton screened emails to both staff and councillors, a leaked draft audit shows, and there are calls for him to step aside as the matter is investigated.
Victoria University senior lecturer in law Dean Knight said serious alarm bells should ring if it was proven there were practices that obstructed communication between elected politicians and the constituents they were accountable to.
“It’s just astonishing. If it’s the case that the chief executive has been intercepting and/or censoring emails to councillors – especially without their knowledge or consent – I think it’s a real worry.
Further to this unfolding issue and the monitoring of emails, amidst calls from many for a forensic audit, nine Councillors are sticking by the CE in his actions. I personally find this of concern that none of those are encouraging an audit. If there is nothing to hide and all is above board there should be no problem at all with an audit. This is not rocket science. If your kid refuses to turn out his pockets you know something’s up. In this instance should HDC not welcome the opportunity to prove their innocence? Not so in this case.
Remember people, this is a council that last year refused to open the financial books … this current breach of privacy is more than just HDC, it is a further erosion of our already compromised privacy. They are relying on you to let this slide under the radar unnoticed.
Otaki Labour candidate Rob McCann says the information sharing censorship controversy led to his writing to the Office of the Ombudsman.
“In the interests of ensuring that the Horowhenua District Council is operating in a fully democratic manner, and that full and frank information sharing rather than censorship is occurring, I wrote to the Office of the Ombudsman. I have asked them to investigate what seem to be practices that prevent the free flow of information such as the email blacklisting and interception of emails. I argued those practices could lead to an environment where councilors, and or staff, were not able to make free and informed decisions.”
Mr McCann says if that is the case, decisions such as the one to sell the Pensioner Flats (in what has been described as a fire sale to a property developer for a term of only twelve years), should be put on hold, until the community can be assured the HDC is acting in a democratic manner.
“This issue should not be about personalities. It is about democracy, and if we’ve learned anything from the Trump administration in America, it is that when people have something to hide, they try to prevent investigations. People with nothing to worry about would welcome the opportunity to assure the public that all is well, and build public confidence.
“I applaud the Ombudsman’s Office for agreeing to take a preliminary look at this issue. They informed me they have requested the Internal Audit from HDC.”
Mr McCann says this is the audit, that council has refused to release, citing that it is out of scope and full of errors.
“It seems clear that rather than deal with the substantive issues raised in the audit, the council have asked for a peer review and refused to table the document at council. There are allegations that the council has already received the KPMG peer review but are unhappy with aspects of that report.”
The purpose of audits is to ensure that if something is wrong, the issue is brought to light and then fixed. Mr McCann says in this instance it is quite clear that there are practices that are undemocratic. “Whether or not a there has been actual abuse of power, the system put in place and defended by the HDC Chief Executive, has the potential to facilitate and normalise illegal activities. That must not continue and an investigation by an organisation such as the Ombudsman’s office is the best place to start when the council is not willing to do the job itself.”
As the ‘debate’ rages on social media about the perceived rights and wrongs of interfering in email communications without the participants’ knowledge, the privacy commissioner has commented. The CE in question has claimed he’s done nothing legally wrong as the Council own the emails. Have a read. There are many articles from mainstream now calling the CE’s actions into question as the issue gets too big to sweep under the rug as they generally tend to do. Whistle blowers have uncovered a variety of questionable issues with the HDC in recent months & years with little outrage from folk least of all mainstream. In fact I’ve noticed they take the side of the establishment, ever so subtly. Here’s hoping there will be a forensic audit on this, and that the report that highlighted this issue be released to the public in the meantime. Once tabled at a council meeting it is then open for the public to read. Unfortunately six Councillors advised they wouldn’t be at Wednesday’s meeting so with no quorum it was postponed. It would have been tabled there I believe. It becomes harder and harder to defend this council in any way, well those who hold the power of vote that is. In the meantime there’s the usual hate fest going on against the perceived whistleblower, except this time the newspaper in question has publicly stated the mayor did not leak the information to them. EnvirowatchHorowhenua
Horowhenua has hit the news recently with monitoring & blacklisting of emails by the CE of the District Council. This is a sign of the ever growing corruption within district councils NZ wide. It has to be confronted & stopped. This is the stuff of totalitarian states, not tiny rural NZ. Our council like many is already in $70 odd million debt. This is not the scene of yester year our parents & grandparents built. Let’s clean out the rot!
Sign this and share if you agree CE Clapperton & DM Bishop should go. We need transparency & honesty in council … this crossing of the ethical lines of snooping into emails by the unintended recipient is simply NOT acceptable in my opinion. Please consider and sign! EnvirowatchHorowhenua
“Can we have safety and democracy if a CEO is to have more authority than the elected local Mayor. please support by voting to remove CEO and Deputy mayor. Both of whom have publicly supported the method of supreme censorship and authority over members of the press, councillors, the mayor and members of the public. It is vital to show just how many people regard freedom to speak and the role it has played in the freedom and safety of all and the importance it has to transparent government and safe communities, free from oppression and corruption even here in NZ.
Horowhenua has its fair share of vulnerable families. A safe, fair community is paramount to support them moving forward.
I do not condone the abuse of council staff, councillors or the public but this spin by CEO and Bishop does not meet the threshold to establish blocking free communication as acceptable. The true narrative is clear that the safety of staff and all individuals is threatened by absolute authority. democracy and common law must prevail.”
A headline on the recent monitoring, blacklisting and diverting of emails by the CE of Horowhenua District Council that came to light in a recent audit. Do attend the HDC’s meeting tomorrow Wednesday 19th July 2017 if you can and support the Mayor who is intending to speak on these events. EnvirowatchRangitikei
The details reported by Radio New Zealand this morning about an audit report alleging Horowhenua District Council CEO, David Clapperton, has been surreptitiously monitoring and blocking emails sent to elected officials are made even worse by the fact that Local Government New Zealand’s ‘Excellence Program’ gave the Council a ‘competent’ mark for ‘listening and responding’ in an assessment released only last week.
“It is very clear that Mr Clapperton’s head needs to roll if this serious misconduct is true”, says Jordan Williams, Executive Director of the Taxpayers’ Union. “We understand that the Mayor and other elected officials have had to engage their own lawyers to obtain information through the CEO. That is unheard of.”
“Questions also need to be asked of LGNZ about why this Council was given a pass rating only last week for ‘listening and responding’ despite the Council having received this disturbing audit report in March. If blocking ratepayers from contacting elected officials is okay, what the heck does a council need to do to fail LGNZ’s assessments?”
Horowhenua Mayor Feyen’s personally funded (to the tune of $25K) independent earthquake report was released yesterday, amidst much discussion on social media and by HDC establishment that the building is still safe! So, okay, it’s just safe enough but only under certain conditions and I look forward to reading the fine print on that. To get you up to speed, this building is only TEN years old, cost $10 million and has cracks in its basement! The new norm by all accounts. This is defending the indefensible. And it was designed by a company that “specialises in earthquake engineering and seismic design”. Now we have an independent report stating the building is rated ‘E’ only and will only achieve a ‘C’ if the Civil Defense are moved along.
“The report, carried out by Structural Concepts, says if the civil defense headquarters stays put inside the council building, it should be considered earthquake-prone.
…there are “potential structural vulnerabilities”, including concerns about the roof. The report also states that the site on which the building stands consists of “unconsolidated to poorly consolidated mud, sand, gravel and peat”.” Stuff
The building needs remedial work to the tune of $30K. Remember this building is only 10 years old people.
“Mr Clapperton says expected costs of the remedial work, recommended by ISPS Consulting, to lengthen the life of the building have come in. The cost will be in the vicinity of $30,000 and will be covered within the existing maintenance budget.”
Remedial work? On a new building? Why are the designers and the construction company not under investigation? Why are they not being made to stump up with the remedial costs? Oh that’s right it’s the 21st Century when corporations and companies get away with all sorts incurring wee small taps on their wrists with wet bus tickets. Fines payable from their petty cash.
“A Stuff investigation has found 13 near-new buildings have structural weaknesses in Masterton, raising fears of systemic failings in the engineering industry. The design faults, which were not picked up by council, reduced five of the buildings’ seismic strength status to “earthquake prone”.
Now the owner of two of the buildings is struggling to find anyone accountable for the costly errors.
So HDC’s current stance is basically ‘it’s safe as houses, no worries’. There is more however that they’re not highlighting in the discussions or on their website (including the $68 million debt nobody wants to talk about & they won’t open the books).
Firstly, this design company has recently been under scrutiny in the Wairarapa district:
“A Masterton community-owned trust is suing the engineers responsible for designing two of its buildings that were found not to meet the seismic design standard for new buildings.
Masterton Trust Lands Trust has begun High Court action to recover the costs of remediating the buildings’ structural faults.
The company that undertook the structural design of the buildings, Kevin O’Connor & Associates, as well as consenting authority Masterton District Council, and Spencer Holmes Ltd, which was engaged by the council, are all subject to the claim…
Trust general manager Andrew Croskery said costs of remediation work for 61 and 73 Dixon St were significant enough to warrant court action.
“More work is needed to understand the full extent of these costs. If we decide to include the cost of remediating additional buildings in this claim, these costs could run into millions of dollars.”
“Council has sought advice from its liability insurers in the first instance. As a result of the court proceedings we are not at liberty to respond more fully other than to say that Lands Trust Masterton have kept us fully informed of their position throughout this process to date.”
“We will not be able to comment further until this matter is resolved.”
The trust is considering its options in relation to a further nine of its buildings, all of which were structurally designed by Kevin O’Connor & Associates.
Of these, four buildings have been assessed as not meeting the New Building Standard.
The remaining five buildings are undergoing detailed reviews by independent engineers after initial assessments identified potential structural design issues.
Overall the 11 buildings, built between 2003 and 2016, make up about 20 per cent of the value of the trust’s total property assets, owned on behalf of the Masterton community.
There’s that word again … ‘remediation’! Read the whole article HERE.
The faulty design work was first discovered in Masterton when private developer Percy McFadzean commissioned a seismic review of a building he constructed in 2005 to be leased to ASB Bank.
The initial report found serious design flaws that made the new building earthquake prone — findings that were backed up by two more detailed reviews conducted by independent structural engineering firms. SOURCE
Secondly, there are similar rumblings in Palmerston North.
“Investigations into the safety of building plans are underway after weaknesses were found in Masterton buildings designed by a Palmerston North firm. The Palmerston North City Council will ask independent experts to review a sample of engineering plans for city buildings by Kevin O’Connor and Associates.”
So while HDC appear to remain staunch supporters of the said company/ies and continue to maintain the building is safe (they’re filling up the cracks with epoxy resin folks) and a certain disgruntled section of the public are still trying hard to be rid of this Mayor who is a fly in their proverbial ointment … please do consider the obvious here. Would you really employ a company to design anything of yours with so many strikes against its name? Seriously?
So to recap, the $10 million HDC building was built to also accommodate Civil Defense emergencies, but hey, no worries we’ll just relocate them somewhere else! Christchurch ran their emergency earthquake operation out of the library, so what’s the problem? And speaking of Christchurch, remember the CTV building?
“The “six-story office building that collapsed and killed 115 people in New Zealand’s devastating earthquake … was poorly designed by an inexperienced engineer, inadequately constructed and should never have been issued a building permit, a government report has found.”
The report found several deficiencies in the CTV building’s engineering design and said the city council should never have issued the building a permit because the design did not comply with the standards at the time. The commission also concluded that there were problems with the building’s construction.”
“…the building had been issued a “green sticker” following a magnitude-7.0 earthquake in September 2010, signalling authorities had given it the thumbs-up for people to continue using it.
An investigation by The Associated Press last year found that inspection checks routinely used across the world to verify the safety of buildings following earthquakes fail to account for how well those buildings will withstand future quakes. The AP found that building occupants and public officials in Christchurch did not understand that a “green sticker” doesn’t mean the building has undergone a thorough analysis of its structural health, nor that it would stay intact during future quakes.”
You could be forgiven for thinking our building industry and the standards it abides by is being run by cowboys. Seriously. Have they really learned anything here? This company “specialises in earthquake engineering and seismic design” amongst other things. Time for a serious overhaul and back to basics surely?
Watch this space and keep an eye on HDC’s FB page and this ongoing discussion. There are questions being asked there about the previous reports that need to be answered.
For more information on happenings in the Horowhenua district check out our Local Govt Watch pages at the main menu and search ‘categories’ as well.