Justice

Corrections staffer faces action over Haumaha

A Corrections manager who shared private information about a staff member, which was then used by top cop Wally Haumaha to discredit her, may face disciplinary action.

On Thursday, an Independent Police conduct Authority Report (IPCA) report into bullying allegations about now-Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha found Haumaha circulated information about a Corrections staff member to discredit her claims he bullied her.

The staff member has since left the job.

Corrections acting boss Rachel Leota says it was not acceptable to share the information about the staff member, and it was done so without consultation.

When this issue was raised earlier in 2018, the decision was made to take no further action against the manager who breached the staff member’s privacy. But Leota said she had now asked for that decision to be looked at again.

The manager shared the information about a Corrections staff member in August, after the staff member made a bullying complaint about Haumaha relating to his behaviour during a Police, Corrections, Justice cross-agency project to improve outcomes for Māori.

The project was headed by Haumaha, and the Corrections staff member – referred to in the report at Team Member A – was working on the project.

In August 2018, Haumaha telephoned the manager – referred to in the report as the Corrections Sponsor - and asked him to provide his recollection of the 2016 project, the team members involved, and specific information about Team member A. He told the Corrections Sponsor that the information was required by his lawyers.

The manager sent Haumaha an email with a document which set out his observations about Team member A’s behaviour, and confidential details about what he believed to be her performance and employment status in the department.

The document was critical of Team member A, according to the IPCA report.

Haumaha then forwarded the email and attachment to his lawyer, saying it was the response from Corrections regarding the bullying allegations published in the media.

His email said: “This is exactly what I asked Police to do to be more proactive and prepare a response in the event [the New Zealand Herald journalist] came out with his usual rubbish.”

Haumaha then more widely circulated the information to police staff and a member of the Māori Focus Forum.

Corrections acting chief executive Rachel Leota said it was not acceptable of the manager to share that information about the staff member.

“I will be apologising to the former staff member and offering her our support.”

Leota said the Department of Corrections was not advised or consulted before the correspondence was sent from the Corrections sponsor.

“I’m advised that the department became aware of the correspondence when it was being prepared for disclosure to the Scholtens inquiry.”

The Scholtens Inquiry, was the inquiry triggered by the Government in response to questions raised about the process followed during the appointment of Haumaha to the role of deputy commissioner.

Deputy commissioners are appointed by the Governor General, on recommendation from the prime minister, following a Cabinet process.

The inquiry came after complaints about Haumaha’s behaviour from victim advocate Louise Nicholas. And subsequently allegations of bullying. Questions were raised about whether anyone knew about the allegations, and if so who, and how did they affect the appointment process.

“[The issue] was addressed at this time with the sponsor and a decision was made not to take any further action. However, I have asked that this be looked at again,” Leota said.

Beleaguered top cop keeps job

The IPCA report into bullying allegations from three women found Haumaha’s behaviour in 2016 was inappropriate.

It detailed belittling and intimidating behaviour.

The State Services Commission (SSC) conducted a parallel review into the behaviour and processes of the Ministry of Justice and Department of Corrections throughout the complaints process.

The SSC report found the departments fell short of the model standards, which were enacted in 2017, and recommended standards were updated and departments put in place best-practice measures.

Despite the IPCA report findings, legal advice to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern from Crown Law, found Haumaha’s behaviour did not meet the threshold of bullying required to sack him.

Ardern said Haumaha’s behaviour was inappropriate and not of the standard expected of a police officer, but the advice she had received was to direct police to deal with this as an employment matter, as it did not meet the formal definition of bullying.

While Ardern could still make the decision to fire Haumaha, she said it was important to protect the constitutional independence of police constabulary from the state.

The decision to keep Haumaha was unexpected, particularly in New Zealand’s #MeToo year.

The Governor General – on a recommendation from the prime minister - was the only one with the power to fire Haumaha. He could resign.

However, one of his key supporters told Stuff Haumaha did not intend to resign, and was looking forward to returning to work in the new year.

A police spokesperson said Haumaha had the confidence of Police commissioner Mike Bush, and was currently continuing in the role.

Newsroom is powered by the generosity of readers like you, who support our mission to produce fearless, independent and provocative journalism.

Become a Supporter

Comments

Newsroom does not allow comments directly on this website. We invite all readers who wish to discuss a story or leave a comment to visit us on Twitter or Facebook. We also welcome your news tips and feedback via email: contact@newsroom.co.nz. Thank you.

PARTNERS