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