‘Dirty bat­tle’ within Grey Power

Nelson Mail - - NEWS - EMILY HEYWARD

A smear cam­paign to bring down a can­di­date run­ning for Grey Power’s na­tional pres­i­dent has rocked the over-50s ad­vo­cacy group.

Out­go­ing pres­i­dent Tom O’Con­nor said ‘‘po­ten­tially defam­a­tory’’ emails had been sent to mem­bers from three fake email ac­counts in the past few weeks, two of which claimed to be from him.

O’Con­nor said the ‘‘un­der­handed’’ emails try­ing to ‘‘im­prop­erly in­flu­ence the elec­tion’’ were sent by former board mem­bers and life mem­bers.

O’Con­nor ad­dressed the ‘‘dirty tricks’’ in an email to re­gional as­so­ci­a­tions late last month.

‘‘It seems we have more dirty tricks and un­der­handed stunts [than] Don­ald Trump’s re-elec­tion cam­paign man­agers and the Aus­tralian cricket team com­bined,’’ he said in the email.

‘‘In the past few weeks we have had three bo­gus email ad­dresses set up. One to im­prop­erly in­flu­ence the elec­tion of the pres­i­dent with de­lib­er­ate lies and a false iden­tity and two email ad­dresses falsely claim­ing to be me,’’ O’Con­nor said.

The coun­try’s lead­ing Grey Power mem­bers are in Blen­heim this week to vote for a new na­tional pres­i­dent, and to dis­cuss is­sues af­fect­ing the el­derly, at their an­nual meet­ing.

The three can­di­dates run­ning for pres­i­dent are Mac Welch, Lloyd Falck and Jo Mil­lar. Votes were to be cast yes­ter­day.

Falck con­firmed he had re­ceived the emails but did not want to con­firm who they were about.

‘‘There’s a dirty bat­tle go­ing on out there which I wasn’t part of,’’ he said.

Welch de­clined to iden­tify who the emails were about as it was ‘‘sub­ju­dice’’.

Mil­lar could not be reached for com­ment at the meet­ing.

O’Con­nor, a former Marl­bor­ough Ex­press jour­nal­ist liv­ing in Ti­maru, said ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tions sug­gested the fake email ad­dresses had come from the greater Welling­ton re­gion.

He told mem­bers the only emails they would re­ceive from him would be from the Grey Power New Zealand Fed­er­a­tion of­fice.

O’Con­nor said two emails made ‘‘un­true’’ com­ments about a can­di­date, un­der the pseu­do­nym ‘Leon Ash’.

‘‘They sent out an email that was very, very crit­i­cal of one of the can­di­dates and some of the com­ments were un­true and some were po­ten­tially defam­a­tory but they did it un­der an as­sumed name,’’ he said.

A Grey Power NZ chair­man, ad­dress­ing mem­bers at the an­nual meet­ing on Mon­day, said there were two peo­ple in New Zealand by the name of Leon Ash; a 7-year-old and a 12-year-old.

O’Con­nor said the emails crit­i­cis­ing a can­di­date were ‘‘in­ex­cus­able’’ and said those in­volved had been given a ‘‘stern’’ talk­ing to.

‘‘The sup­port­ers of one of them have en­gaged in some re­ally un­der­handed stuff, there’s no need for it,’’ O’Con­nor said.

‘‘If they made those com­ments un­der their own name it wouldn’t have been quite so bad but to do it un­der a nom de plume was in­ex­cus­able,’’ he said.

Grey Power Marl­bor­ough pres­i­dent Brian Mc­Na­mara, who also re­ceived the emails, called the at­tack ‘‘dis­hon­ourable’’.

Grey Power NZ vice-pres­i­dent Pete Matcham said mem­bers had also re­ceived ‘‘scam’’ emails from some­one claim­ing to be O’Con­nor that were ‘‘try­ing to get dosh’’.

PHOTO: SCOTT HAM­MOND/STUFF

Grey Power vice-pres­i­dent Peter Matcham, left, and pres­i­dent Tom O’Con­nor at the Grey Power an­nual meet­ing in Blen­heim on Mon­day.

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