Embattled ex health board boss Dr Nigel Murray went to court to keep secret his efforts to suppress a report into his alleged misuse of taxpayer money, so he could have a "fair trial".
The former Waikato District Health Board chief executive originally sought to keep the report itself hidden, protecting any rights he may have relied on if charged with a crime.
But the Serious Fraud Office decided not to pursue criminal charges against Murray, saying the cost of carrying out necessary investigations in Canada to prove criminal charges "beyond reasonable doubt was not in the public interest".
Murray resigned in October 2017 after the draft report by independent lawyer Maria Dew, QC, raised questions about expenses he claimed associated with at least two Canadian women, neither of whom was his wife.
The draft report into Murray's spending was supposed to be destroyed, as part of an "employment dispute and settlement process" according to documents released in the ensuing State Services Commission inquiry.
That investigation found Murray spent $120,000 of taxpayer money on travel and accommodation that was unauthorised or unjustified.
On Murray's resignation the Herald applied for a copy of the Dew report under the Official Information Act.
The DHB withheld it, prompting a complaint by the Herald to the Ombudsman, whose investigation lasted a year.
During that time Murray applied to the Employment Relations Authority [ERA] for compliance orders "due to the alleged breach of a settlement between the parties on October 5, 2017". He wanted the report destroyed.
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In late October, 2018 the Herald requested the draft report again on advice from the Ombudsman.
According to an ERA decision published in July this year, Murray applied to the authority on November 12 for an urgent hearing and compliance orders and sought non-publication of those details.
At the conclusion of a hearing on December 12 Murray and the DHB as the respondent were encouraged to resolve the claims, which they did.
On January 31 this year they filed a joint memorandum where Murray withdrew his substantive claim and variations to the publication orders were sought, allowing the DHB to release parts of the draft employment investigation by Dew to the Herald.
A heavily redacted version of the report was released and in mid-February, after 16 months, the newspaper published details including:
• Murray personally booked a $1617 international flight for a woman from San Francisco to Auckland using taxpayer money;
• He spent two nights in Las Vegas during a trip to the United States on virtual health business. On the same trip, which he later largely refunded, Murray went to Canada for seven nights;
• He booked a rental car in Moncton, Canada for two months despite only being in the city for six days.
Murray then sought through the ERA permanent name suppression for himself, the DHB, Dew and reference to her draft report, and information identifying him as being the former CEO at the DHB.
He wanted to keep secret the fact he had tried to have the report destroyed and buried.
His reasons, according to the four lawyers acting for him in the application, were:
• The right to a fair trial which had already been put at risk by negative publicity;
• That if he had not applied to the authority in the first place the orders he was seeking could not have become public;
• That legally the terms of his settlement should be confidential.
"If the non-publication orders are not granted this could serve as a chilling effect on those seeking to enforce their rights under a record of settlement," his lawyers said.
The DHB did not support the non-publication order.
In her decision authority member Tania Tetitaha said a stringent approach to applications for non-publication is required because of the fundamental importance of the principle of open justice.
"At the time of this determination, there is no evidence of any proceedings being brought against the applicant," Tetitaha said.
"The Serious Fraud Office has recently announced it shall not be pursuing criminal charges against the applicant."
She went on to say there was public interest in the application because the DHB was a publicly funded organisation and many of the facts of the case had already been publicised, including the redacted draft report.
Tetitaha did not accept that publication of the determination would have any of the adverse consequences submitted by Murray.
She restricted access to the authority file on the case to protect Murray's settlement but dismissed the application for non-publication orders.
Costs were reserved. It's unclear how much it has cost taxpayers for the DHB to respond to the proceedings.
The Herald sought comment from Murray's lawyer, who had not responded by print deadline.