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Ombudsman refers school Board complaint to Privacy Commissioner

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Regan Cunliffe has now raised the Helensville Primary School Board of Trustee’s failure to supply private information with the Privacy Commissioner.

Since August, Mr Cunliffe has made repeated requests for Board meeting minutes and in-committee minutes relating to himself and his family from 10 May 2018 onwards.

After the Board failed to respond to those requests within the statutory 20 working days, a formal complaint was laid with the Ombudsman in October.

The Board meeting minutes were made public on the school’s website in mid-November. The in-committee minutes were withheld from Mr Cunliffe.

Last week, the Office of the Ombudsman communicated a response to Mr Cunliffe’s complaint regarding the delay by the Helensville Primary School Board of Trustees in responding to a request for Board meeting minutes.

During the course of the Ombudsman’s preliminary inquiries, the Board accepted that there had been "a failure to meet the timeliness requirements imposed by the OIA".

Given that the minutes have since been published on the school’s website the Ombudsman found a formal investigation was unnecessary.

However, the Ombudsman’s office advised Mr Cunliffe that the requests for the in-committee minutes in relation to his family would need to be pursued through the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.

"I have been seeking this information since August," said Mr Cunliffe. "Being forced to use the OIA process to get information that should have been readily and willingly made available to members of the school community is disgraceful enough," he said, "but for the Board to then fail to meet the deadline defies belief."

"What is worse though is for the Board to force parents to have to go to the Privacy Commissioner just to see what personal information the school holds about you and your family, information that you are entitled to have access to under the law."

In November, parents were informed that the Board had co-opted David Munro. Mr Munro now chairs a committee dealing with Board correspondence.

Mr Munro has 30 years of experience in industrial relations, school Boards of Trustees and is a senior advocate for the NZRDA who are currently in dispute with the DHBs and involved in strike action.

Ironically, Mr Munro issued a series of press releases in 2017 condemning the Taranaki DHB for not responding to OIA requests within the statutory 20 working days and having to resort to pursuing his request through the Office of the Ombudsman.

Mr Cunliffe added, "In Mr Munro’s very own words, ‘Where is the good faith in this secretive approach? What is the [Board] trying to hide? That the [Board] continues to hide behind information gatekeeping arouses deep suspicion that something is not right here.’"

Additional complaints have been laid with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner by Mr Cunliffe, and referred on by the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the Helensville Primary School Board of Trustees.

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