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Let’s Lynch the Landlord

Written By: - Date published: 9:45 am, August 3rd, 2015 - 53 comments
Categories: accountability, class war, health, human rights, same old national, tenants' rights - Tags: ,

An extraordinary threat to the privacy of Christchurch clients of Relationships Aotearoa has been revealed this morning. A callous, grasping commercial landlord was trying to leverage money out of liquidators PriceWaterhouseCoopers by refusing them permission to remove and secure a roomful of sensitive files.

The landlord, Les Rawlings, had allowed a freelance journalist access to the records, presumably in a bid to strong arm the liquidator. PWC say they communicated immediately they took over with the  30 landlords across the country in order to secure and uplift the files held in the various buildings RA leased. It appears Rawlings had seized on this situation as an opportunity to make money that he wouldn’t normally be able to get under a liquidation. There are very few polite words to describe this kind of manipulative behaviour.

Also behaving despicably is the journalist, Beck Eleven. She accessed the site, took photos and then had the temerity to post this on her blog:

“On a personal note, I am sorry if this causes distress to people who have used the service and fear their files were left in the open. However, I believe this kind of privacy breach must be exposed so it doesn’t happen again.”

Get that? She’s the one exposing the clients to risk, she’s a party to the privacy breach, but she’s sorry if it causes “distress”. Still, at least she’s got one close supporter. Her uncle; the landlord Les Rawlings!

This situation sucks. Minister Anne Tolley should apologise to the RA clients this morning or she should be gone by lunchtime.

Destroying Relationships Aotearoa was her doing and she was told in no uncertain terms that there could be considerable harm to the vulnerable clients of RA at the time she closed them down. And this morning, that harm has been visited on them by a rapacious landlord and a disingenuous journalist.

My heart goes out to the clients of Relationships Aotearoa. They have been very badly let down and I can only imagine the horror they are feeling this morning. Happily, after bringing in lawyers, PWC have been able to secure the files.  But they would never have been in this situation if it wasn’t for the half arsed foolishness of Minister Tolley.

In the TS post linked to above is this line:

Time will tell but I suspect that the next few weeks is going to show the transition process to be a colossal f*&k up.

Yep. Never a truer word said.

Shame on the landlord. Shame on the journo. Shame, shame, shame on the Minister.

 

Re: the post title. It’s a song by the Dead Kennedys. Please don’t actually lynch the landlord. He may be an arse, but that would be going too far.

53 comments on “Let’s Lynch the Landlord ”

  1. Anno1701 1

    The Landlord’s here to visit
    They’re blasting disco down below
    Sez, “I’m doubling up the rent
    Cos the building’s condemned
    You’re gonna help me buy City Hall

  2. weka 2

    This is also a reminder about how few rights we have over information we share with others. Once a client shares something with a practitioner, that information becomes the property of the practitioner, and often the practitioner’s clinic (which means many people have access). The client has some limited rights in terms of accessing copies of that information, but they don’t have control or ownership of the information itself.

    The Privacy Act, and to some extent the Health and Disability Act, offer some protection in terms of what can be done with that information by the practitioner, but as this example with RA shows there are other forces that can and will take precedent. Often a breach has to occur before privacy rights will be enforced by the state.

    This is only going to get worse as notes and other information are increasingly digitised and systems are set up for information sharing that pay lip service to individual needs and rights. i.e. information sharing is becoming a priority over privacy, and systems are increasingly functioning for the system rather than the individual they are meant to be serving.

  3. Bill 3

    Too much ‘he said she said’ stuff around this.

    PWC claim the landlord stonewalled.
    The landlord claims he was told that the lease was going to be picked up by the new providers.

    Meanwhile, it would appear reasonable – all things being equal – that the landlord seek rent owing.

    As for Beck Eleven, well if PWC were negligent, then it would appear appropriate to blow the whistle on their lax arrangements, no? As she say’s (and putting aside claims that the landlord refused in some way to hand the documents over)

    The photos speak for themselves but it remains murky as to why no privacy transition plan or document shredding plan was put in place.

    edit: Maybe some qualifiers in lieu of some of the bold definitive statements in the post wouldn’t go amiss?

    • weka 3.1

      Yeah, just looking at the journalist’s blog post, it raises a few issues for me.

      One is why didn’t RA make sure that the files were secured before vacating? Leaving the dirty dishes is not a good look. It’s possible that RA in Chch believed that the files were secure, but maybe they also just walked out on the day and left it to the Ministry to sort. So who is it that has actual responsibility here? (that’s a question for a journalist to find the answer to and I’d suggest it involves a decent conversation with the Privacy Comissioner).

      I’d like to know how Eleven knows what the contents of the boxes are. I can’t tell from the photos. Has she opened the boxes? Looked at actual files? And has she breached the Privacy Act in doing so?

      • “I’d like to know how Eleven knows what the contents of the boxes are. I can’t tell from the photos. Has she opened the boxes? Looked at actual files? And has she breached the Privacy Act in doing so?”

        She did not open boxes, but she did look at files in boxes that were already open. As to whether that’s a breach of the Act, my guess is yes, but a relatively minor one, given that she did not divulge specific information.

        • weka 3.1.1.1

          It’s not minor. No-one has a right to look at private information unless they have good reason to believe that the person who the information is about would be ok with that (plus the usual legal reasons eg police access). Opening a box is no different to opening a file. That a box was open doesn’t equate to permission.

          If she can look at the files and that’s a minor issue, why not the landlord? Or a passer by when the door was unlocked and open?

          btw, what’s your source on that?

          • te reo putake 3.1.1.1.1

            Actually, you are right, weka. Either way it’s not minor. It’d be worse if details were released, of course. It reminds me of the PM’s office accessing Labour’s files. Even if the door is open, it’s your choice to enter.

            My source is the journalist, Beck Eleven. We had a brief exchange on twitter this morning and she confirmed she had looked at names and addresses, but did not rifle through the files. I’m happy to accept that was the extent of her viewing of the files.

            I extended an invitation for her to reply here as well. Happy to hear from her uncle as well, if there is a different position to be put.

          • Colonial Viper 3.1.1.1.2

            It’s not minor. No-one has a right to look at private information unless they have good reason to believe that the person who the information is about would be ok with that (plus the usual legal reasons eg police access).

            She investigated as much as was required in her capacity as a journalist to ensure that the story she was writing and the facts that she was using was accurate.

            Her actions are protecting the people whose information has been left lying all around the country, not compromising it.

            • weka 3.1.1.1.2.1

              I’m guessing that RA protected the identity of their clients. This means that the counsellor considered the names and address of the clients to be prviate and confidential in the same way as details of any counselling issues. Some counsellors will make that explicit to the client. It doesn’t matter that Eleven is a journalist, she didn’t have permission.

              You can of course argue that her breaching privacy serves the public good, but I don’t think you can argue that she didn’t breach privacy (based on what I’ve seen so far).

              “Her actions are protecting the people whose information has been left lying all around the country, not compromising it.”

              Why did she need to read names and addresses to do that?

            • Ergo Robertina 3.1.1.1.2.2

              It’s a valid story but It’s bad journalism. No comment from Relationships Aotearoa, MSD, or the liquidator in the blog post.
              It looks like Cary in the comments is RA strategic adviser Cary Hayward, which may have prompted the update to clarify the status of the locks.
              Especially given the story involves a family member she should have been more scrupulous about this before publishing.

    • McFlock 3.2

      Fair enough to seek rent owing, but why allow a journalist access to client files?

      That’s the bit that takes it from “dealing with liquidation like a normal person” and “leverage before ethics”, imo.

      • Bill 3.2.1

        I’m assuming he was a bit of an arse. But maybe he was genuinely outraged at the inaction of PWC and the whole MSD clusterfuck around the transition and privacy? And then, as he had a niece who was a journalist, thought it right to shed some light on the situation? I dunno.

        • greywarshark 3.2.1.1

          @Bill
          That’s the impression I received. A picture tells on a thousand tories. Good on them for doing an expose’ on the lack of responsibility of the government.

  4. McFlock 4

    I’m thoroughly gobsmacked.

    The landlord and the “journalist” are disgusting.

    • Bill 4.1

      Well, it could be as the landlord claims. It could be that PWC left the files there to be ‘adopted’ by the new tenant/provider. The new provider doesn’t take the premises in the end. Meaning, the landlord has a reasonable claim for monies for ‘not the most secure’ storage.

      Or it could be as PWC claim.

      Point is, we don’t know which version of events is true.

      • weka 4.1.1

        and irrespective of which version is true, I’d like to see a statement from the Privacy Comissioner about who owns the files. The landlord appears to be saying he does (he owns all property left behind), but even if that’s true he still has to abide by the Privacy Act. I’m not sure giving a journalist access does that. Nor does leaving doors unlocked.

  5. ankerawshark 5

    I am shocked that files were left in boxes (as opposed to locked cabinets) in a building no longer leased by RS.

    I am sorry but I don’t blame the landlord as such. He may be a prick, but he is not responsible for clinical files. Nor do I blame the journalist. It needed to come to light in order to deal with it.

    RA and whoever was taking the work over (I think it was MSD) should have liaised over securing the files. It is their responsibility.

    This should have been done professionally and in a thorough manner, i.e. paying for confidential storage.

    • Bill 5.2

      Basically ankerawshark. Neither rocket science nor particularly deep levels of awareness required to figure out some basic procedures and safeguards.

    • lprent 5.3

      Who knows the details?

      The MSD didn’t fund. RA went into liquidation because they were apparently completely out of funds prior to the appeals to the MSD. When no further funding was provided, a liquidator took over. By the sounds of it RS were probably evicted/locked out from many of their premises.

      Ultimately the MSD needs to secure the files because they were meant to be transitioning clients from one provider to another. That would include past clients. MSD should have been completely aware that RA were shutting down from a position of debt.

      To me it looks like MSD ignored their responsibilities. Bearing in mind how political the decisions about RS were, the minister is completely culpable.

      • John Shears 5.3.1

        Nicely put Iprent.

      • adam 5.3.2

        If you have dealt with a receiver type situation via a social services/community organisation – it is bloody awful. My experience, as the the guy brought in by a mate to help out as the state government, rolled a place. Yes, in Australia.

        It was the last 2 weeks, and like RA they thought they would survive, so it was in reality, day to day. On the last day when the, contracts were cut – the money run out – the banks stopped all credit, cold. We had been told in the morning to be out by lunch time. Similar deal I hear for RA, a very short time to react to closing. So the workers are running around like they have got a million things to do in two minutes, trying to do what they think is best – it was that depressing experience – coupled with lots of tears, frustration, and anger.

        Now, this has happened before, and will happen again. The ministry, and in particular the Minister knew that credit would stop, and that the receives would be brought in. So she would also know, she has to take responsibility for her actions, because she left no choice for those involved. NO choice to protect those they had served, no choice to do the right thing – the Minister took away choice and then washed her hands of the affair.

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – what do you do when you have a government that has no moral compass?

        • lprent 5.3.2.1

          That is my view as well. There would have been few realisable assets and no future income. So there would have been no way to have a particularly orderly shutdown. This would have been completely obvious.

    • Colonial Viper 5.4

      I think Beck Eleven has done what needed to be done as a journalist and made it clear that the Government has put hundreds of people and a lot of confidential information at risk. Describing her actions in writing this situation up as “despicable” is way over the top.

      • In my opinion that it’s not over the top, CV. She didn’t declare her relationship to the landlord and she chose to look at the files. It strikes me that she was acting more as a PR for her uncle than as a journalist. A reverse Glucina, if you like. But the real responsibility lies with Anne Tolley. This situation could not have arisen if she hadn’t acted so brutally to close RA. A managed exit could, and should, have been organised. Her prime responsibility was to the clients and she has failed them abysmally.

        • Colonial Viper 5.4.1.1

          Not declaring her relationship to a news source makes her despicable as a journalist? Or do you see that she spun the facts or misrepresented them in her Uncle’s favour? Please clarify why you see it this way. Have you ever seen Sabin declare that his brother is a National MP when reporting on NZ politics?

    • Bill 5.5

      Hmm. From the Carmel Sepuloni link below (comment 7 by OAB) it appears that Deloitte’s were contracted to manage the transition. Which begs the question of why PWC were looking to get office access and/or why Deloitte’s weren’t liaising with the landlord over the files.

    • Karen 5.6

      +1 ankerawshark

      Relationship Services and/or MSD are responsible for this situation, not the landlord or the journalist who has exposed the problem.

  6. shorts 6

    at what point do we level our finger of blame back at those who forced RA to colapse leaving this mess in the first place – the people who wouldn’t allow a smooth transition from RA to whomever is picking up the pieces (not the vulture receivers)

    • tc 6.1

      All roads lead to the minister and yet another example of the incompetance of tolley and her minions.

      Higher standards anybody ?

  7. One Anonymous Bloke 7

    Carmel Sepuloni raised this back in June.

    The private case files of hundreds of Relationships Aotearoa clients are sitting in boxes in offices around the country as the wrangling over their transition to other agencies continues, says Labour’s Social Development spokesperson Carmel Sepuloni.

    “PwC as liquidator has permission to access the files, but there are technical issues around their removal – making a fiction of Social Development Minister Anne Tolley’s assurances no-one would be without support during the handover.

    “To add to that MSD’s Murray Eldridge and the Privacy Commissioner have been at odds over the complexity of the file transfer process, with the Commissioner expressing considerable annoyance at MSD claiming it would be straightforward.

    “RA had asked for three months to work with their clients in moving them to the Government’s preferred service providers. Instead MSD only offered them 10 weeks, during which they would receive no funding.

    Boxes all over the country. Ten weeks without pay. Why does everything National touches turn to shit?

    • Bill 7.1

      Yup. I think that in conjunction with ankerrawshark’s comment above, that this is the actual story; not some flapping over a landlord and a niece with a camera.

      • weka 7.1.1

        There are Privacy Act issues here in addition to the MSD/RA ones.

        None of what’s in that link precludes the landlord trying to extort money (I have no idea if he did btw). It’s not like such extortion wasn’t going on after the quakes.

        It’s still unclear to me who owns the files, and who has responsiblity. If I was a client of RA, I’d be thinking it was RA as they’re the ones I shared my information with.

        • Sarah 7.1.1.1

          Hi Weka

          Declaration: I am a former employee of Relationships Aotearoa (RA). When we were operational and when we closed no information collected about a client was shared with anyone without explicit client consent. In the last 2 weeks of operation counsellors tried to contact all open cases to see whether they wanted to transition to another provider, and if they did whether they gave consent for their file to be shared.

          • weka 7.1.1.1.1

            thanks Sarah. Did RA clients have to sign a privacy form when they were first taken on?

            • Sarah 7.1.1.1.1.1

              The obligations were on RA to only share their information with consent. Clients were informed of their right to privacy. Likewise before receiving information from a community referral we would require the referrer to have sought consent from the client before passing information.

              This is, or should be, common and best practice.

              • weka

                Thanks Sarah, that wasn’t quite what I was asking. How can RA know it has consent? I was wondering if clients were asked to sign a general waiver when they first came into the service.

    • keyman 7.2

      that is there elected roll to fuck everything up

  8. vto 8

    Beck Eleven has never been worthy of a read… she is just another white middle class female journalist who [deleted] and has excessive opinions

    [And you appear to be a sexist git. Write about the issue, or don’t write at all. TRP]

    • vto 8.1

      oh diddums. Here let me write it again.

      Mike Hosking is just another white middle class male who [deleted] and has excessive opinions

      I seen plenty such written which get let through without moderator bigotry being imposed.

      The hypocrisy shown around here at times is truly laughable

      [There’s no hypocrisy, VTO, different mods see things in different ways. However, we all moderate according to the site rules. Banned for a week for reproducing the deleted phrase. TRP]

  9. dv 9

    AND also, have the clients been passed on to the new provider?

  10. Sam C 11

    Still… for someone so keen on journalistic integrity (according to her other posts anyway), Ms Eleven could surely have declared her relationship with the landlord and let readers come to their own conclusions.

  11. Old Mickey 12

    The landlord and journo have behaved appallingly, its a long bow to blame the minister for this. The RA saga isn’t over yet, and when the receivers call in the SFO it will be interesting to see what everyone has to say.

  12. Ad 13

    Top work TRP; entirely appropriate outrage.

    Nearly three terms of the worst database and privacy-violating government we have ever had.

    • tc 13.1

      It’s not a violation if you re-write the rules and hide behind a friendly force that refuses to charge potential breaches.

  13. weka 14

    Having just spoken with the Operations Manager in charge I can confirm that these files were in a locked room (with pin access) in a locked building when staff left the building for the last time. Two managers oversaw the handover of keys to the landlord. Someone with keys to the building and access to the pin on the door would have needed to open the room up in order for these photos to be taken. This must have occurred at some point after the closure of RA.

    Cary 8/2/2015 16:46:53

    http://www.beckeleven.co.nz/blogcolumns/relationships-aotearoa-privacy-and-protection-no

    Back in the landlord’s court then.

    • Bill 14.1

      I thought he’d already clarified that the ‘office’ door was unlocked that day because the files were due to be picked up?

      Should he or PWC or Deloitte have come to a more secure arrangement? Yes.

      Thing is, I can’t quite understand why PWC or who-ever didn’t just turn up some weeks ago – with or without cops, lawyers or whatever – get a locksmith to remove the lock, empty the room and be done with it.

      Hmm – except that Strand were going to be taking over the lease. Which would partially explain the files being left in situ. But then, that doesn’t explain allegations that the landlord was seeking to extort monies from PWC.

      • weka 14.1.1

        “I thought he’d already clarified that the ‘office’ door was unlocked that day because the files were due to be picked up?”

        Hard to know what happened because we’re working piecemeal, but I was under the impression that the door was left open. Not that it was unlocked for pick up once the picker uppers had arrived. If so, that’s not good. Eleven seemed to be implying that the MSD/RA/PWC were neglectful but it looks like the landlord was as well. It makes a mockery of her assertion that the files should have been secured somewhere where homeless people wouldn’t break in if the room was left open for the afternoon or whatever.

        I think she’s probably tried to do something good here, but there does look like a conflict given the family connection and I think she’s dropped the ball professionally in a few ways. I’m wondering how experienced she is as a journo. It looks like someone who doesn’t quite know what they are doing.

        I don’t know what rights receivers have in a situation like that in terms of breaking locks.

        One other thing occurs to me. Eleven writes a column for the Press. Interesting she’s put this on her blog rather than trying to get it published in a newspaper.

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