Monday, July 17, 2017

Absolutely outrageous

We all knew that Horowhenua District Council was a toxic environment, with the council and Chief Executive refusing to accept the election of a new mayor. But Radio New Zealand this morning reported that its Chief Executive was spying on the mayor's email and personally redirecting, blocking, and editing emails within the council system. The story is audio only, but its worth a listen (as is the interview with one of its victims, mayor Michael Feyen).

According to the story, council David Clapperton had the IT team set up a blacklist several years ago, and emails to those on the list were sent to him for his review (and editing) before being sent on. Feyen, while a councillor, was on that list, as well as a number of other people. There's at least one quoted example of emails being edited in transit by Clapperton, and another of emails marked "confidential" being screened.

The report all this is from calls this an extreme risk to the council. No shit. It goes well beyond what's acceptable in the workplace, and raises serious questions about the Chief Executive's ethics. In case he's forgotten, he is an employee of the council. And here he's effectively spying on his bosses, and directly manipulating communications with them for his own purposes. This is absolutely outrageous, and he should be being fired immediately for it (sadly I doubt he can be prosecuted for use of an interception device, as an agency is considered to be a party to everything which crosses its own email system, even if its clearly private and not for them). It also raises obvious risks under the Privacy Act, and under LGOIMA.

But don't worry! The Chief Executive has decreed that the audit report covering all of this - which also talked about the governance issues between him and the council - will be peer reviewed, and that his abuse of the email system was "out of scope". Well, obviously, that makes it alright then, if its never mentioned in an official report ever.

Like parliamentary Services' spying on MPs, this isn't acceptable. The spying needs to stop, and Clapperton needs to be sacked. Sadly, given the toxic environment at HDC, he'll probably get away with it entirely.