Review into Horowhenua email audit should be released in full, without delay

Most Horowhenua councillors and staff have backed David Clapperton's email snooping.
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Most Horowhenua councillors and staff have backed David Clapperton's email snooping.

OPINION: It comes as no surprise that the latest development in the Horowhenua email-interception scandal will take place behind closed doors.

A long-awaited KPMG review of the controversial internal audit that uncovered Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton's snooping will be discussed by the council's audit and risk subcommittee this week.

Despite the public interest in what's happened, not to mention the implications to democracy, the subcommittee is to debate the matter in private.

Its independent chairman Philip Jones – independent being another term for unelected – will then decide whether to make the report public.

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As with Clapperton's decision to snoop on emails, some of which were between residents and councillors, the council has forgotten its mandate to be accountable to ratepayers.

Clapperton has been steadfast in defending his actions, saying his interception was to stop abusive emails from those on his blacklist from reaching staff.

He has not explained why he needed to personally read and weed out such emails as opposed to simply blocking a user or using a language filter, nor has he explained why the practice stopped so suddenly after last year's election.

Most glaringly, he has not said why he snooped on emails sent to councillors, who surely aren't in need of Clapperton's protection.

Council staff are reportedly backing their boss to the hilt amid the intense publicity the scandal has created.

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More worryingly, most councillors have publicly defended the chief executive – an extraordinary position given the potential for sensitive correspondence from constituents being viewed by unintended recipients.

Clapperton's public assertions he did nothing wrong because the council owned the @horowhenua email addresses show just how much he's missing the point, as does his claim the internal audit that uncovered the snooping was acting "out of scope".

He leads a public organisation, where transparency and democracy are values that shouldn't be trampled on.

The biggest irony about the decision to hold this week's discussion behind closed doors is the apparent need to protect people's privacy, including council staff.

Such concerns seemed not to bother Clapperton during his interception spree. Those so keen to defend him didn't seem worried either, until now.

The KPMG report needs to be released in full without delay, avoiding the risk of further vetting.

 - Stuff

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