ACC worker re-viewed leaked Smith letter

PHIL KITCHIN
Last updated 05:00 29/03/2012
Bronwyn Pullar
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Bronwyn Pullar.

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The letter that led to Nick Smith's Cabinet resignation was repeatedly viewed by an ACC case worker a week before it was leaked to media – and three times on the day before it first appeared in a newspaper.

The ACC staffer who reread the letter was previously Bronwyn Pullar's case manager.

The case manager – Jo Parker-Dennis – was taken off Ms Pullar's case six months ago, at Ms Pullar's request, after clashes over how her compensation claim was being handled.

Dr Smith resigned as a minister last week after it was revealed he wrote a letter supporting Ms Pullar, while he was ACC minister, on July 7 last year.

A hunt is on for who has leaked private ACC information about Ms Pullar to media. ACC Minister Judith Collins has repeatedly stated it was not her or her staff.

Ms Pullar sent Dr Smith's emailed letter to Ms Parker-Dennis on July 14. Ms Pullar forwarded the email using computer software that allows her to track each time her email has been opened and who it is subsequently forwarded to.

Ms Pullar is now demanding answers as to why her former case manager re-viewed Dr Smith's letter four times between March 13 and March 19, the day before the New Zealand Herald published details of the contents.

Ms Parker-Dennis opened the letter three times the day before the story broke, Ms Pullar said.

She believes Ms Parker-Dennis had no legitimate reason to re-read the letter, given that she was no longer her case manager, days before its contents were leaked.

"So why did she seem to have such pre-occupation with that email [this month] and none at all with others around the time the letter was sent by Nick?"

The NZ Herald reported the anonymous source who leaked Dr Smith's letter was an ACC client who contacted the paper because she did not get "those kind of privileges ... we don't get to have meetings with senior managers or the board".

ACC declined to comment on Ms Parker-Dennis' actions yesterday, citing the independent review under way of the corporation's processes and procedures.

The Dominion Post revealed on March 13 that ACC had committed one of the biggest privacy breaches in New Zealand history when a staff member accidentally emailed thousands of clients' details. Ms Pullar was later identified by media as the recipient.

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Ms Parker-Dennis reopened Dr Smith's letter at 12.37pm on March 13. It was the first time she had opened the document this year, Ms Pullar said. "She had no business going back into my file because if she was looking for the email containing the mass privacy breach ACC had been clearly told that was an email sent to me, not one I sent to them."

The email tracking software Ms Pullar attached to Dr Smith's email shows it was received by Ms Parker-Dennis on July 14 last year. Ms Parker-Dennis forwarded the email to three senior ACC managers.

Ms Pullar said she later had Ms Parker-Dennis removed as her case manager because the pair had developed a "fractious" relationship.

Ms Pullar's ACC claim relates to compensation for a head injury she suffered in a 2002 cycling accident.

ACC had suggested she had a pre-existing "mental health condition" before the accident. But Ms Pullar said she was medically certified fit to hold a pilot's licence. ACC was "fully aware" she had no previous mental health or neurological conditions.

"It was typical of how ACC is going on fishing expeditions of so many of its clients to collect medical records that have no relevance to their injury claim as a way to get rid of clients and reduce [ACC's] liabilities."

TIMELINE

March 13: The Dominion Post reveals an ACC claimant, later identified as Bronwyn Pullar, had been emailed details of 6752 ACC clients. At 12:37pm that day – 242 days after first receiving a letter from then ACC minister Nick Smith – ACC case manager Jo Parker-Dennis reopens that email.

March 19: Ms Parker-Dennis again re-reads the email containing Dr Smith's letter at 10.22am, 10.43 am and 3.22 pm.

March 20: The day the New Zealand Herald publishes the contents of Dr Smith's letter, Ms Parker-Dennis again opens the email at 9.51am.

Related stories

Key seeks pledges on ACC mystery

Full list of Bronwyn Pullar's complaints against ACC

ACC's massive privacy breach

John Judge calls on Pullar to prove claims

Nick Smith resigns cabinet

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