Seven-year-old privacy breach complaint to council resurfaces

By Alexandra Newlove

2 comments
Wayne Deeming and Warren Slater attend a Whangarei District Council meeting. PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
Wayne Deeming and Warren Slater attend a Whangarei District Council meeting. PHOTO/MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM

Another councillor has become embroiled in a saga surrounding a privacy-breach victim who has been pursuing Whangarei District Council over the incident for seven years.

Wayne Deeming, whose privacy was breached in 2009 by WDC, has written an open letter to Okara ward councillor Brian McLachlan, criticising him for not replying to emails. Mr Deeming is backed by council watchdog Warren Slater.

In January this year, the Human Rights Review Tribunal told WDC to pay Mr Deeming $2000 for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feeling for breaching his privacy. The dispute kicked off in 2009 when Cr Shelley Deeming - a cousin by marriage - forwarded an email from Mr Deeming which should have been confidential.

Mr Deeming's email related to an incident at a rugby club which raised issues about the club's liquor law adherence. When the email was leaked, he was ostracised in his Maungakaramea community.

Afterthe ruling, Mr Deeming felt Ms Deeming had not been held to account so "re-lodged" a code of conduct complaint against her and contacted councillors. Mr McLachlan then phoned Mr Deeming to tell him the complaint needed to be sent to chief executive Rob Forlong, not the councillors, as per council procedure.

Mr Deeming said the call left him feeling his complaint would not be treated properly. He said Mr McLachlan alluded to a comment Mayor Sheryl Mai had made to this effect in a confidential meeting. Mr Deeming and his "agent" Mr Slater then emailed Mr McLachlan several times, asking for an affidavit to support what was said on the phone.

Mr McLachlan acknowledged he did not respond to these emails, and he could not recall the exact content of the call. "My view was that was the end of it. My role was to make sure due process was followed," he said.

Ms Mai said she "certainly" did not make comments indicating the complaint would not be taken seriously.

Mr Forlong - who joined WDC in 2015 - replied to Mr Deeming's re-lodged complaint detailing how he had looked into the matter, summarising it "does not require any further investigation".

Mr Deeming called this a "whitewash" and questioned how Mr Forlong could adequately investigate a code of conduct complaint against his employer (the councillors).

Mr Forlong said: "Council treated [Mr Deeming] very poorly in 2009, and the process for deciding the original complaint could have been a lot better.

"I am at a loss to see what more we can do for Mr Deeming ... we have paid compensation for breaching his privacy, and I have publicly apologised for our actions."

- Northern Advocate

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