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Glenn's inquiry at critical crossroad

STEVE KILGALLON
Last updated 05:00 07/07/2013
Owen Glenn
JOHN KIRK ANDERSON/ Fairfax NZ
OWEN GLENN: Withdrawing White Ribbon nomination.

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Sir Owen Glenn is unlikely to fly back from England to face calls for his resignation at a vital board meeting of his beleaguered inquiry this week.

But staff say Glenn remains committed and will not withdraw the several million dollars in funding he has pledged to the inquiry into child abuse and domestic violence - but would be happy to give it a new name if that helped restore public support.

The Glenn Inquiry lost two more staff on Friday - office manager Jessica Thompson and administrator Emma Goodman, leaving for what the inquiry said were unrelated reasons - and 27 of the original 38 members of its Think Tank have now quit.

The board meeting - which is likely to be held early this week and may be conducted by Skype, to accommodate Glenn and others - shapes as a decisive in determining whether the inquiry survives after a week of what chief executive Kirsten Rei called "media frenzy".

The focus came after the Sunday Star-Times' revelations that Glenn pleaded no contest to a charge of physically abusing a woman in Hawaii in 2002, but hadn't declared the incident to the inquiry or the government anti-violence campaign White Ribbon, to which he had applied to become an ambassador.

Rei said she would table a "go-forward plan" to the meeting after the inquiry halted all evidence-gathering work last month after a Star-Times story reporting the concerns of former staff and witnesses.

"I can imagine there are lots of people waiting to hear what we are going to do," she said.

A report into the inquiry's safety will be on the agenda. The report's co-author, Kim Workman, confirmed it would be tabled but neither he nor Rei could say if it would be made public.

The board must also consider renewed calls from members Manu Caddie and Marama Davidson for Glenn and inquiry chairman Bill Wilson to stand down.

Caddie said he planned to stay on, but made it clear he expected change. "I hope to hear that the board are committed enough to solving the issues that they will make changes in the leadership to allow public and Think Tank members' confidence to be restored," he said. "The problems of child abuse and family violence are bigger than any individual."

Caddie said change could inspire some of those who had quit to return but admitted it would be a "huge decision" for Glenn to step aside given his investment, but said he hoped Glenn would put the opportunity to solve the problems ahead of his desire to lead the process.

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Workman, also on the Think Tank, said he had no comment on Caddie's calls for Wilson and Glenn to step aside. He confirmed he would stay on. "My commitment is really about hoping that somehow we can turn this around and we can do something for abused women and children, so I am still committed to the kaupapa and hoping somehow we can make something of this."

Rei said she could not comment on board composition, but said: "I know that Sir Owen is hugely committed for the same reasons he was when he signed up . . . I know the funding is secure."

Glenn spent Friday in Yorkshire, England, watching the Kiwi Ferns league team he sponsors play a world cup match against France. It's understood he feels deeply disillusioned with his treatment by the media.

Rei said she fielded many offers to replace Think Tank members. She said the inquiry remained committed to soliciting support but indicated the Think Tank might change format.

Think Tank members resigned in droves following last week's Star-Times story, which revealed Glenn was arrested in Hawaii in 2002 and charged with physically abusing a woman. The charges were dismissed. Glenn has denied the allegations and said he did not mention them on disclosures made to the inquiry and White Ribbon because they were untrue. Since the story broke, Glenn has withdrawn his White Ribbon application and been criticised by White Ribbon chair Peter Boshier for his non-disclosure.

- Sunday Star Times

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