Sir Tim email saga: Council to review electronic policies

Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt at the council chambers earlier this month. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt at the council chambers. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Invercargill City Council approved $10,000 to undertake an independent review of its electronic policies and procedures following an incident with mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt’s email.

However, the mayor himself, voted against the investigation as he claims he did not trust the system in place.

​​Last week, Sir Tim told a Local Democracy Reporter he believed chief executive Clare Hadley had accessed one of his emails and used it against him at a chairman’s meeting.

A report about the matter was presented by the advisor to the office of the chief executive Jane Parfitt, to elected members today during council’s risk and assurance meeting.

Parfitt said that on April 27 council passed a resolution authorising the chief executive to take the necessary steps to support deputy mayor Nobby Clark in his support of the mayor and to represent the city.

“At the meeting, we talked a lot about the need to utilise electronic access of the mayor’s ICC [Invercargill City Council] account.”

Ms Parfitt said the council received a query from Otago Daily Times requesting more information about the matter, and consequently, the chief executive Clare Hadley issued a statement.

At the time, she acknowledged she should not have shared the content of the email with other elected members and staff.

She said council could consider the matter was dealt with but it felt there was a range of understanding and appreciation of how council's correspondence was treated so an independent review was the best outcome.

It would cover a review of the current council’s “electronic access acceptable use policy”; how it related to Local Government Official Information and Meetings and Privacy Acts; the special arrangements in place to support the mayor Sir Tim and the confirmation of understanding by council’s elected members and employees of policies and practises in place.

She recommended Wellington barrister Robert Buchanan to undertake the review and suggested a $10,000 budget for the matter.

Sir Tim Shabdolt, who was anxious to talk about the matter since the beginning of the meeting, said he believed the report of Ms Parfitt tried to set out the responsibilities and the lines of communication from the chief executive.

However, he felt it did not cover the matter he was more worried about.

“It doesn’t give anyone the right to hack my emails. It is an improper act and it is a misuse of the email - to go down that road.”

He said Ms Hadley and her advisors should not play any role in the review, including suggesting who conducts the review.

“Clare is implicated as a party to the allegedly improper use of an email and the report downplays the fundamental lack of consent by me as to hacking the emails.

“The report does not make any distinction between interception and misuse with misuse being a serious offence.”

Chairman Bruce Robertson appreciated the sensitivity of the matter but said what council was seeking was clarity in the policy and understanding the grounds for the support given to elected members.

“I think there is a big difference between that and what you are alluding to and I would want to caution you about using words like 'hacking' - we are talking about something which is here for support and whether that has been done reasonably or not.”

The “pen in this review” was held by Ms Parfitt and I was also consulted in the recommendation, Mr Robertson said.

Councillors approved the proposed recommendations with the exception of Sir Tim Shadbolt who opposed it.

The recommendation would be presented to full council for confirmation and if approved, council expected to receive a report about the matter in September.

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