The acting chairwoman at Waikato District Health Board has made a heartfelt public apology to the Waikato community for the actions of former chief executive Dr Nigel Murray.

Sally Webb made the apology at the beginning of today's monthly board meeting, on behalf of all board members.

The acting chair said Murray's actions brought the DHB into disrepute when he spent $120,608 of taxpayer money that was not justified or authorised.

She said Murray had paid back $74,265 but the DHB had written to the State Services Commission to seek clarity on the extra $46,343 identified by investigator John Ombler in the SSC inquiry.

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The board had not shut the door on reclaiming more of the money.

Webb also said board chairman Bob Simcock's use of a public relations expert to write his resignation letter was not sanctioned by the board.

"The previous chair had the board support to contract the PR Firm [Senate SHJ] and we understand this was on advice from SSC," Webb said.

"However the board did not sanction the use of the PR firm to write Mr Simcock's letter of resignation.

"We acknowledge there was nothing to preclude this happening and are making appropriate changes to our delegation policy today so this cannot happen in the future."

Board member Dave Macpherson raised a motion to have Simcock pay back the money.

The entire PR spend by the DHB during the fallout over Murray's expenses investigation was more than $20,000, but it's not clear exactly how much the resignation letter cost.

Sally Webb is acting chairwoman of Waikato DHB. Photo / Waikato DHB
Sally Webb is acting chairwoman of Waikato DHB. Photo / Waikato DHB

Board member Mary Anne Gill seconded the motion, saying the PR advice was also used to counter another board member's public statements and taxpayer money should only have been spent on advising the DHB.

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However, member Crystal Beavis said the board should have gone to Simcock privately to ask for the money back, and the motion was lost at vote, 7 to 2.

Webb also acknowledged that advice to Simcock from the State Services Commission to sack Murray if wrongdoing was found, was not disclosed to either the remuneration committee or the full board.

"We were aware that Mr Simcock was having conversations with the SSC however this crucial aspect of the conversation was not shared."

And she said vital checks were missed in the recruitment of Murray because it was not known until last week, when the SSC inquiry findings were released, that Murray was fired from his job as CEO and president of Fraser Health Authority in Canada.

"None of the board members at the time were aware of this. As the report highlights, there was a vital gap in reference checking."

She said the board would ensure such mistakes could never be repeated in the future.

Former Waikato DHB chair Bob Simcock narrowly avoided being asked to pay back taxpayer money he used to have a public relations expert write his resignation letter. Photo / File
Former Waikato DHB chair Bob Simcock narrowly avoided being asked to pay back taxpayer money he used to have a public relations expert write his resignation letter. Photo / File

In a Waikato DHB news story published on June 20, 2014 announcing Murray as the new chief executive, three references were highlighted though the referees were not named.

"He has the toughest job in British Columbia health, he has outlasted all of the other CEOs and he has done a good job," one referee said.

"I found him sincere, direct, and very committed to quality, and on a physician to physician basis, a very capable, impressive and passionate leader," another said.

But in her statement to the board, staff and public at today's Waikato DHB meeting, Webb said leadership started with the board, chair and chief executive.

"It was the responsibility of the previous CE and chair to demonstrate exemplary leadership. That did not happen."

She thanked the staff who came forward and blew the whistle on Murray, despite it taking more than a year to raise concerns with Simcock.

"Finally on behalf of the board I want to sincerely apologise to the people of the Waikato and in fact the wider Midland region.

"The inappropriate behaviour by the previous CE has brought disrepute to this organisation."