Two years after Dr Nigel Murray resigned amid a spending scandal at Waikato District Health Board legal action is continuing over the initial investigation into his expenses.

Murray is fighting release of a draft report by investigator Maria Dew, commissioned by the DHB in August 2017 after staff raised concerns about the chief executive's spending of taxpayer money.

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In March last year the State Services Commission found Murray was unjustified or unauthorised when he spent $120,000 of DHB money on travel and accommodation.


The case was turned over to the Serious Fraud Office but in July this year the SFO decided not to pursue criminal charges against Murray because the cost of investigating in Canada was not in the public interest.

At the High Court in Hamilton today another claim against the DHB by Murray was not heard because a settlement was reached, according to court staff.

Murray's lawyer John Upton, QC, did not return calls on the case.

When asked if it related to Murray's desire to have the report destroyed, the DHB said it would not comment on the matter until it was concluded.

When Murray quit his top job in October 2017 the investigation draft report raised concerns about spending associated with two Canadian women, neither of whom was his wife.

The Herald sought a copy of the Dew report under the Official Information Act which the DHB declined, and a complaint by the Herald to the Ombudsman lasted a year.

On advice from the Ombudsman the Herald re-requested the report in October last year which prompted Murray to apply to the Employment Relations Authority [ERA] over an alleged breach of his resignation settlement.

His lawyers, Peter Cullen Law, told the State Services Commission the report was supposed to be destroyed as part of a settlement agreement signed by the mediator and the DHB on October 5, 2017, according to documents released to the Herald.


Murray's lawyers also tried to stop the SSC's investigator John Ombler from getting a copy of the report at the outset of his investigation but the DHB released it under privilege. The SFO also has a copy.

Before Murray went to the ERA late last year the DHB suggested releasing a redacted version of the report with only the information already in the public domain able to be read.

"Rather than respond to that request, Dr Murray has chosen to file proceedings in the Authority," Simpson Grierson partner Phillipa Muir wrote to Calum Cartwright of Peter Cullen Law on November 15, 2018.

"In our view that is unnecessary and costly. If Dr Murray can suggest further redactions to the report that reflect what Dr Murray believes is in the public domain, then the DHB would certainly consider that."

But Murray did not want any of the report released.

State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes said Dr Nigel Murray's behaviour was an
State Services Commissioner Peter Hughes said Dr Nigel Murray's behaviour was an "affront to the taxpayers of New Zealand" when he released the SSC's findings. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Cartwright wrote to Simpson Grierson on November 29 pointing out the DHB had been asked to explain how the excerpts were in the public domain and the DHB had not done so.

"We remain of the view that the Waikato DHB should not hold copies of the draft Maria Dew report and should not be releasing the excerpts."

Previously Cartwright said the draft report was central to Murray's interactions with the SFO and any criminal proceedings the SFO might take against him, including his right to a fair trial.

The ERA hearing cost the DHB $41,855 in external legal fees.

The report was released in redacted form to the Herald earlier this year but the saga did not end there.

When the SFO closed its investigation a request for an unredacted version of the report was again met by resistance, with Murray filing proceedings in the ERA.

The terms of reference for Dew's investigation were part of a swathe of documents released to the Herald under OIA which formed annexures in the first ERA proceedings.

Dated August 7, 2017, the terms show the scope of the independent investigation was to delve into Murray's expenses and any related employment matters.

In particular the investigation would look into the concerns raised with Murray in a letter from then board chairman Bob Simcock on June 29, 2017, and Murray's conduct and use of DHB expenses in relation to a business trip to the United States between March 19-31, 2015.

That was two days after the Herald revealed Murray was a no-show at a US conference during those dates.

Dew's report would show Murray went to Las Vegas and Canada during that trip, which he later refunded to the DHB.

The annexures also show Murray bailed out of an interview with Ombler the day before it was scheduled on January 19 last year, after making the investigator wait.

His lawyers said part of the reason for that was because information was given to Murray only three days before the interview, including that he personally booked an international flight for a woman from San Francisco to Auckland using $1617 of taxpayer money in May 2017, and over a Langham Hotel booking for 22 days in July 2016.

The SSC said the information was made known to Murray a month earlier and rejected that Ombler's inquiry had been "hasty" or under pressure from media and the government.