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Former cop remains dismissed from NZTA

LAURA WALTERS
Last updated 13:17 02/09/2014

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A former policeman's efforts to get his job back as a senior officer at the NZ Transport Agency have fallen short.

Tere Lawson was sacked for serious misconduct over the way he handled a complaint and allegedly misled investigators.

He was dismissed from his role of manager transport officer with NZTA on May 15.

Lawson said he had been unjustifiably dismissed and took the matter to the Employment Relations Authority.

The case has yet to be determined, but in the meantime he applied to the authority to be reinstated at his job at NZTA.

In a just-released ERA decision authority member Eleanor Robinson said while Lawson had an arguable case for unjustifiable dismissal he had been unsuccessful in his application to get his job back while that matter was being decided on.

NZTA resisted Lawson's reinstatement, saying that he had lost the trust and confidence of management and his former team members, the ERA decision said.

The agency also said Lawson had not acknowledged any wrongdoing and had been obstructive and unresponsive during an investigation into his conduct.

This contributed to the overall lack of trust and confidence in his ability to perform his job on an ongoing basis, NZTA said.

Lawson said NZTA's investigation into his conduct had been "procedurally unfair", biased and the investigation was incomplete.

The loss of his job had put Lawson in "very real financial difficulties", he said.

Lawson's job had been to make sure taxi operators and organisations worked within the law.

A member of Lawson's team received a complaint in March about unlicensed passenger services within Auckland Maxi Taxi Company and Alert Group, owned by Robert van Heiningen.

However, Lawson advised his team not to get involved with the complaint.

He said his staff should advise the complainant to seek legal advice, the ERA decision said.

The matter came before the Disputes Tribunal.

Lawson told his team they did not have to attend tribunal hearings unless summonsed, despite the complainant seeking the support of NZTA at the hearings.

Lawson had then turned up to the tribunal hearing as a witness in support of van Heiningen.
Lawson said he had been summonsed. However, it was unclear whether this was true, and if so what form the summons came in as there was no official record of it and Lawson's and van Heiningen's reports were contradictory, the ERA decision said.

The complainant submitted a further complaint to NZTA that the first complaint had not been properly dealt with, that Lawson and possibly other NZTA staff had acted corruptly and were engaged in an inappropriate relationship with van Heiningen.

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This sparked an internal review of how the complaint was handled, which led to an employment investigation ending in Lawson's dismissal.

NZTA Midlands regional manager David Pearks, who headed the employment investigation, said it was likely Lawson was not telling the truth about his involvement and dealings with the case. Pearks said Lawson had been obstructive and unresponsive during the investigations, the ERA decision said.

Lawson was seeking permanent reinstatement, lost wages, lost benefits and compensation for loss of dignity, humiliation and stress caused by what he said was an unjustified dismissal.

Regardless of the outcome of this overriding case, the ERA's recent decision meant Lawson would not get his job back in the interim.

- Stuff

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