20 Feb 2014

Councillor wants emails destroyed

11:48 am on 20 February 2014

An Auckland councillor says an audit firm should destroy more than a million emails that were trawled through as part of a review of mayor Len Brown's conduct.

Some council staff say the review by consultants EY late last year breached their privacy by searching without notice three years' worth of emails in 16 accounts. The consultants are still holding the emails to and from the mayoral office.

Doug McKay announcing the findings of the review in December 2013.

Doug McKay announcing the findings of the review in December 2013. Photo: RNZ

The staff members, who don't want to be named, say the email trawl was unannounced and inappropriate for what was a review of office spending and conduct by the mayor.

Councillor Chris Darby has previously questioned why the firm continues to hold the emails, and says that, with the review now completed, they should be purged. "That information still sits in the files of EY, external to council," he says, "and in my opinion there is risk of that private and commercially sensitive information being leaked."

Councillor Wayne Walker says there are no longer grounds for EY holding the emails. Issues of general privacy are at stake, he says, "and there should be an end to it."

The consultants would not comment on client business, and former chief executive Doug McKay has said it is normal for auditors to hold the material for some time.

The audit looked at whether ratepayers money was used, or whether the mayor abused his powers, during a two-year extra-marital affair that he admitted after re-election last October. It found no inappropriate spending, but said Mr Brown should have declared as gifts nine free hotel rooms and 64 upgrades valued at $39,000.

The Auckland Council says the review was in accordance with policies that staff know and agree to. It says it has a robust and best-practice IT policy which is read and agreed to by all staff, and it achieved a sensible balance in meeting its obligations during the review.

Radio New Zealand News understands there was intense debate in mid-October involving the mayor's office and senior political figures over the breadth of the review proposed by Mr McKay.

However, the council says it has no plans to review the handling of the investigation, and anyone who believes it breached its responsibilities is able to complain to the Ombudsman or Privacy Commissioner.