Saturday, May 25, 2024

‘This is supposed to be a democracy’

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Howick Local Board member Bob Wichman. Photo supplied

Howick Local Board member Bob Wichman is accusing Auckland Council of misrepresenting the facts over the use of his council email account.

But the council reject’s Wichman’s allegations and is adamant its position is correct.

The Times recently reported Wichman believed his access to his council emails had been “restricted” in what he called “censorship” of his views.

He said it happened after he sent an email about the proposed route of the Eastern Busway to mayor Phil Goff, Auckland Transport’s chief executive and all of the city’s councillors.

After sending it, Wichman received an email that said the email group that includes all Auckland ward councillors “only accepts messages from people on its allowed sender list, and your email address isn’t on the list”.

“Restricting my access to other councillors, I think it stinks,” he says.

“This is supposed to be a democracy.”

But council local board service general manager Louise Mason said no restrictions had been placed on Wichman’s council account.

“He is not on the permitted senders list for the ‘all councillors group’ which he included in his email regarding the Eastern Busway.

“Subsequently, member Wichman received an automatic response advising him his email was not able to be sent to that list.”

Wichman disputes Mason’s account of the situation and says it’s “rubbish” to suggest he was not on the permitted senders list.

“A previous email to all councillors went through okay and I received replies from councillors.”

Wichman’s email use drew public attention in May last year when he sent an email to all of the city’s local board members about Covid-19.

Following that, Mason said he’d been told the email was “ill-advised”.

“We also reminded him it’s best practice to use an Auckland Council email address for council business only.

“Further options the council have is to remove individual access to sending group emails.

“The member has been advised this privilege could be removed if further emails like this are sent.”

Wichman asks how his privilege around sending group emails could be removed if he was not on the permitted senders list to begin with, as Mason said.

In response, Mason says he and other board members are not restricted from emailing individual councillors.

“However, the ‘all councillors’ email group is a distribution list that includes councillors as well as senior executives and support staff, which some governance staff are able to use for administrative purposes.

“Others outside that distribution list don’t have access to it, meaning Member Wichman received an automated message informing him of this.

“Member Wichman has not been removed from the ‘all councillors’ email group.

“As with any other elected member or staff member outside that particular administrative group he did not have access to it in the first place.

“There are no restrictions on elected members emailing each other, therefore Member Wichman has the ability to directly email those councillors he wishes to contact.”

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