Radio rant host wins damages
A former Tokoroa radio station manager who went live on air with allegations of financial impropriety has won damages against the station.
The Employment Relations Authority has ruled that Rosina Hauiti was unjustifiably dismissed by the trust, which runs the Tokoroa-based Raukawa FM.
Authority member Tania Tetitaha ordered the trust to pay Hauiti wage arrears of $8076 for unfairly suspending her without pay after the inci- dent. It had claimed it couldn’t afford to pay the wages, but there was no evidence of that.
Tetitaha also ordered the trust to pay Hauiti $1250 for ‘‘hurt and humiliation’’, which included a reduction of 75 per cent for Hauiti’s own ‘‘ contributory behaviour’’.
In September 2013 she went live on air to make allegations about money paid to prominent Maori broadcaster Kingi Biddle, husband of former station manager Wendy Biddle.
She claimed she had been unable to find most of the programming he was supposed to have delivered. She then barricaded herself in an office and left only when police were called.
A subsequent report for Maori funding agency Te Mangai Paho found more than $60,000 was paid to Biddle to provide programming, but he had no written contract and invoices were provided retrospectively. The investigation also found Wendy Biddle used another trustee’s online banking password to authorise the payments.
There was no evidence money was misappropriated.
Before the controversial broadcast, Hauiti took the extraordinary step of trespassing her own employers, three of the four trustees, because she alleged they were interfering with the running of the station.
That put the employers in an ‘‘ untenable’’ situation, Tetitaha ruled, as they couldn’t access the station.
It was a sackable offence, but Hauiti had not been given a reasonable opportunity to respond before her dismissal.