Changes to email pol­icy ap­proved

Manawatu Standard - - News - MIRI SCHROETER

The Horowhenua District Coun­cil has adopted a new email in­ter­cep­tion pol­icy af­ter aban­don­ing pre­vi­ous con­tro­ver­sial vet­ting prac­tices.

The coun­cil ceased its snoop­ing prac­tices in Au­gust af­ter leaked doc­u­ments re­vealed black­listed mem­bers of the pub­lic and some elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives were hav­ing emails to coun­cil staff in­ter­cepted by chief ex­ec­u­tive David Clap­per­ton.

On Wed­nes­day, coun­cil­lors pushed through an amended pol­icy. It al­lows emails to coun­cil staff to be vet­ted by coun­cil-ap­pointed pri­vacy of­fi­cers, rather than Clap­per­ton, but coun­cil­lors will not have emails in­ter­cepted.

Elected mem­bers would in­stead be of­fered sup­port to man­age soft­ware that could treat trou­ble­some emails as spam.

At Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing, Cr Barry Judd said the pol­icy cov­ered not only the phys­i­cal well­be­ing of coun­cil staff, but also men­tal well­be­ing. Clap­per­ton, who was not at the meet­ing, has pre­vi­ously said he vet­ted emails to pro­tect his staff from abu­sive mes­sages.

Cr Ross Camp­bell said the pol­icy did not deal with past email vet­ting problems, so he ab­stained from vot­ing.

Camp­bell was among those who had emails in­ter­cepted.

Cr Chris­tine Mitchell said the pol­icy was not about fix­ing past is­sues. It was about en­sur­ing there was a safe com­mu­ni­ca­tion pol­icy for the fu­ture.

Mayor Michael Feyen was ab­sent from the meet­ing, due to ill­ness, but said on Thurs­day it was clear other coun­cil­lors did not want a probe into past prac­tices.

He said the pre­vi­ous email­block­ing prac­tices, which spanned six years, needed to be in­ves­ti­gated.

Feyen’s emails were among those vet­ted from April 2015 un­til elec­tions in 2016.

‘‘It se­ri­ously dis­rupted my abil­ity to even be a coun­cil­lor in the past,’’ Feyen said.

He has lodged a com­plaint to the Om­buds­man’s of­fice.

On Thurs­day, coun­cil spokes­woman Lacey Wil­son said no-one’s emails were be­ing vet­ted yet.

Dur­ing Wed­nes­day’s meet­ing, Cr Piri-hira Tuka­pua called for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Feyen’s ex­ter­nal ‘‘ad­vo­cate’’ Chris­tine Toms af­ter she wrote an email on be­half of the mayor.

The email, which con­tained a mes­sage from the mayor re­quest­ing to see the qual­i­fi­ca­tions of a se­nior coun­cil staffer, was sent by Toms to Feyen and car­bon­copied to Clap­per­ton.

At the meet­ing, Tuka­pua was crit­i­cal of Toms for sign­ing off the email as though it came from the mayor.

‘‘I don’t think we should tol­er­ate this kind of be­hav­iour.‘‘

Speak­ing away from the meet­ing, Toms said she ac­ci­den­tally copied Clap­per­ton into the email, which was only in­tended for Feyen. ‘‘I did not pur­port to be the mayor.‘‘

Any in­ves­ti­ga­tion should in­clude check­ing whether se­nior mem­bers of the coun­cil had the cor­rect qual­i­fi­ca­tions, Toms said.

Coun­cil­lors Jo Ma­son, Barry Judd and Ross Bran­ni­gan sup­ported an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Bran­ni­gan said it was im­por­tant that elected mem­bers had con­fi­dence in the of­fice of the mayor.

Feyen, who has a coun­cilap­pointed per­sonal as­sis­tant, said he sup­ported Toms.

‘‘Toms is my ad­vo­cate, try­ing to help me through the nas­tier side of life in this coun­cil.’’

Deputy mayor Wayne Bishop said the coun­cil was seek­ing ad­vice on whether an in­ves­ti­ga­tion was ap­pro­pri­ate.

Horowhenua mayor Michael Feyen wants past prac­tices in­ves­ti­gated.

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