Archive for the ‘ Training ’ Category

It’s Obscene

Friday, October 4th, 2019

I was discussing the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) Annual General Meeting tonight with a friend – believe it or not I do have some, friends that is. We were talking about the SNZ decision to set aside $100,000 to pay New Zealand’s best privacy lawyer to fight me in a privacy case. My friend dismissed SNZ’s behaviour with a curt, “It’s obscene.”

What on earth did she mean? What was obscene? Well it is simple really. Two things.

First, here we have SNZ spending $100,000 paying two lawyers. This has nothing to do with swimming. This is a legal bill to sort out a problem that a phone call could have settled for free, four years ago. Even today it could be sorted out, not for free any longer, but for a lot less than this is going to end up costing. Another friend of mine – yes that’s at least two – was talking about the same subject this afternoon and offered the comment that sometimes a dispute goes past the point of being resolved between the parties. Sometimes a Court or Tribunal is needed. He is right. Sometimes that does happen. But not on this occasion.

SNZ has a new Chairman. Nick Tongue has replaced Bruce Cotterill. That is a step in the right direction. At least Tongue knows a bit about swimming. The bad is – he has been a member of the SNZ Board while they have been making some catastrophic decisions – like the one to spend $100,000 making a Christchurch lawyer rich.

But let’s give Nick the benefit of the doubt. He is a new broom. If ever a place needs a clean sweep, it’s SNZ. At least one item of the garbage needing removal is this privacy issue. Perhaps Nick is a better manager than his predecessor. Give me a call Nick. It would be nice to have a crack at sorting out your predecessor’s shambles.

But all that is not the obscene part. What is obscene is the SNZ AGM was held last weekend and the topic of the $100,000 being spent on lawyers was not even discussed. What on earth has to happen before the SNZ delegates act? Cotterill sets aside $100,000 to pay lawyers and the delegates at the AGM say nothing. Bloody unbelievable. Bloody obscene.

What on earth are the delegates at the AGM to do? If spending $100,000 on lawyers isn’t worth a mention, what would need to happen to get the delegates attention? Would blowing up the Millennium Pool count? Banning South Island teams from the National Championships? Perhaps someone would ask questions about that. Not the delegates from Auckland of course. It was their idea. But what would really upset these delegates is the decision to save money by stopping the AGM tea and savouries. Pay lawyers $100,000, no problem, but do not for any reason, meddle with our tea and sausage rolls. It’s obscene.

And the second obscenity surrounding the $100,000 is the announcement today of the qualifying criteria for three SNZ teams. Teams will be selected to attend the          Junior Pan Pacific Championships, the Oceania Championships and the LA Invitational. At the conclusion of the qualifying criteria is the following wonderful sentence.

“This is a user pays event which means that Swimmers are required to fund their own expenses.”

Can you imagine that? The SNZ Board and management think it is fine to spend $100,000 on lawyers and charge swimmers to represent the country. Three teams sharing $100,000 is $33,300 that could be allocated to each team. Seems like no choice to me. But to the SNZ Board the lawyers win every time. Sting the membership and pay lawyers to defend Cotterill’s ego. Of course that’s a good idea.

Put another way – the three meets are taking place in Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Fiji. The cost of a trip to Los Angeles and back is $1500, to Hawaii $1200 and Fiji $1000. Divide the average of $1233 into $100,000 and 81 swimmer’s airfares should be fully funded for the money SNZ has decided to send to a lawyer in Christchurch. That’s the priorities your Board has in life. That’s what your Board think is important. As my friend would say – IT’S OBSCENE.   

Swimming New Zealand Annual General Meeting

Friday, September 27th, 2019

 

Be A Lion – Ask The Tough Questions

This Sunday, 29/9/19, the Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held. If ever there was an occasion for the delegates to exercise their duty of oversight, this is it. After all, why are delegates at the meeting? What is their function? Well, one of their functions is to examine the performance of the six Board members. Have the affairs of the organisation been honestly and properly managed through the past 12 months? Is there anything in the performance of SNZ that is of concern? Is yet another drop in membership the product of management shortcomings? Is action being taken to address poor international results?

BUT on this occasion there is one item in SNZ’s Annual Report that demands the attention of every delegate in the room. This year’s accounts include a contingency amount of $100,000 to pay for legal fees in 2020. The reason this Board is planning to spend a huge sum on legal fees needs to be examined in detail. Proper oversight demands this amount is subject to the closest scrutiny.

Questions that must be asked are:

  1. What is the Board planning to spend $100,000 paying for? The answer is on legal fees paid to fight my application for a Report into complaints about my coaching.
  2. Is the $100,000 allowance set aside enough? No way in the world. The legal fees cost will be in the order of $100,000. But if I am awarded anything in damages the amount will be well in excess of that figure. The Tribunal hearing alone is set to take a week. $100,000 is not even close.
  3. Is spending 3% of the organisation’s income on legal fees justified? Absolutely not. If SNZ had handed over the Report four years ago any fallout would have been long gone at absolutely zero cost. $100,000 would have been available to pay for swimmers to attend a World Championship with $20,000 in change.
  4. What are SNZ so set on hiding in the Report? It can’t be the identity of the complainants or the Report’s author, Michael Marris. Everyone knows Susan Turner and Nikki Johns made the complaints. Hiding their identity when both of them rush to announce their involvement in Stuff, on Facebook and Instagram is a pointless exercise. Ask Cotterill if he can explain why he is hiding their identity from 15,000 SNZ members when Turner and Johns advertise themselves to 140,000 Stuff, Facebook and Instagram readers.
  5. Is there a way to settle this without making lawyers rich at the member’s expense? Yes of course. In four years SNZ has made no effort to negotiate a resolution. None at all. In my opinion it should still be settled “out of court”. Cotterill needs to be asked, at the AGM, why he hasn’t picked up the phone to talk about a solution. Why has spending the member’s money been a higher priority that reaching a solution?
  6. Is Cotterill wasting money in order to fight a well-known critic? Yes, and that’s as pathetic as it sounds.

So, there are five questions Chairman Cotterill needs to answer. Watch him duck and dive. Watch him avoid the issue. Hear him say things to the members like – because the case is before the Tribunal he can’t talk about it. Any excuse in order to avoid the problem. After all, he’s been talking at a 100kph to the media, why shouldn’t he talk to the members?

If he does try those tricks read him this statement.

I, David Alexander Wright, hereby give my approval for SNZ or any delegate to the AGM to discuss any aspect of the case and/or my involvement and/or the plan to spend $100,000 on a legal case at the AGM.

And so delegates, have a good meeting. Exercise your oversight duties well. I’m interested to hear how you get on. If you have a minute after the meeting send me an email to nzdaw@yahoo.co.nz.

Dalziel, “Unless We See It”

Saturday, September 21st, 2019

Kathryn Dalziel is the lawyer Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) has hired to defend the charge that they have interfered in my privacy. I have said before that there must be something in the Marris Report that SNZ are desperate to hide. Certainly SNZ has employed the best privacy brains in the country in an effort to get them out of trouble. As someone recently said in the United States, “You don’t plead the Fifth Amendment if you are innocent.” In this case the equivalent of that is, “You don’t employ Kathryn Dalziel unless you’ve got something to hide.”

She is the best. Whenever Stuff or Radio NZ or TVNZ or the NZ Herald want an expert legal opinion on privacy matters, the lawyer they call is Kathryn Dalziel. She has commented recently in the main stream media on privacy problems associated with the Christchurch earthquake, filming inside pub toilets, Aaron Smith’s indiscretion in an airport toilet, the couple who had sex at work with the windows open and the lights on, the woman who decorated a cake insulting her employer, privacy in the credit industry and a hundred other issues.

Even YouTube has three clips featuring Dalziel’s opinions. One, that I found particularly interesting, was an event called the Privacy Forum 2016. In it Dalziel and two other lawyers discussed the topic, “Principle 6 Requests. What do they reveal for business?”

Much of the discussion had no relevance to my Marris Report case. But, as one would expect from a lawyer of her class, the opening sentence of Dalziel’s presentation cut right to the chase. In ten words she said perfectly what my 60 page submission to the Human Rights Review Tribunal will be trying to say. She said,

“WE CANNOT CONTROL OUR PERSONAL INFORMATION UNLESS WE SEE IT”.

Isn’t that just the point? We cannot control our personal information unless we see it. For four years I have been trying to convince SNZ of that case. For a year the Privacy Commissioner tried to convince SNZ of that case. Through all that SNZ said, “No.” And now SNZ are about to spend $400 an hour paying for Kathryn Dalziel to argue that she didn’t mean David Wright should control his information by seeing it.

What she really meant was the person who paid the most should control David Wright’s information by seeing it. At least that’s the way SNZ want it to work in this case.

You see there are two ways this case can go. Either the principles of the Privacy Act, either the principle of seeing my information, either what Dalziel knows is right and honest can win or money can buy some slippery deal, some underhand legal trick in order for SNZ to flout the law. As expected the path SNZ has taken is to try and buy their way out of trouble. My belief in justice says they will not be successful. I hope Dalziel’s sense of honesty reaches the same conclusion.

While Dalziel’s talents and legal mind are first class, I’m not so sure about her buddy in this case – SNZ’s Approachable Lawyer, Michael Smyth. Just about everything he sends out has a mistake of some sort. He has employed Dalziel to help him on this case. What he needs is a third-grader who can read. The submission he sent me today told the Tribunal this case was “BETWEEN DAVID ALEXANDER WRIGHT ANS SWIMMING NEW ZEALAND”. Oh, I know it is a small thing, but added to the double negatives – remember when he told us all, “It should not be unsurprising to you that a lawyer should use the word in this way.” – the misspellings and general mix ups that have gone before, you do begin to wonder.

Anyway we are all due to meet on the telephone next week. Sadly it will be the first time I’ve heard him speak. I can’t wait. I say sadly because one other point Dalziel made in her YouTube discussion was the importance of complainants and agencies, “dealing directly”. Well, that advice has gone by the board in this case. Apart from required legal transactions, in four years SNZ have sent me two emails. No phone calls, no meetings, no “can we sort this out?” – just two emails. Dalziel is right again of course. Those she deals with are the problem.

A NZ Refugee Is One Step Closer To Becoming An Olympian

Friday, September 20th, 2019

Swimmer Eyad Masoud has been awarded an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Refugee Athlete Support Scholarship. The scholarship will provide funding for Masoud to train and attend elite competitions.

“I was so happy when I got the email and I haven’t stopped smiling since,” said Masoud.

As a recipient of the scholarship 24-year-old Masoud will also be one of the athletes to be considered for selection to the Olympic Refugee Team for Tokyo 2020.

The IOC will release its selection criteria for the Olympic Refugee Team in early 2020 with its Executive Board in charge of athlete selection to the team. Receiving a scholarship does not guarantee a place in the team.

The Olympic Refugee Team debuted at the Rio 2016 Games, with 10 athletes displaced from their home nations competing under the Olympic flag.

“Being eligible for the Olympic Refugee Team is huge for me, I’ve dreamed of competing at the Olympics since I arrived in New Zealand so to be a step closer to that is pretty special.”

Masoud was born in Syria where he learnt to swim at a young age. His family moved between Syria and Saudi Arabia until Syria became too dangerous. Their home has since been destroyed by bombs.

Masoud was granted refugee status and moved to New Zealand in late 2017. As well as being a competitive swimmer Masoud studies engineering and works as a junior swim coach in Auckland.

“I’ve been fighting to spread the message that no matter what your circumstances are, if you work hard you can still achieve your dreams.

“Getting this scholarship has given me even more motivation and the funding will allow me to train even harder.”

New Zealand Olympic Committee CEO Kereyn Smith says Masoud is a worthy recipient of the refugee scholarship.

“Eyad has been through a lot in his life so we’re extremely pleased that he’s getting a helping hand as he works towards his goals,” said Smith.

Masoud’s strongest event is the 50m freestyle.

The Tokyo Olympic Games will be held July 24th-August 9th, 2020.

So What IS Your Money Being Spent On?

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019

The aspect of the Marris Report saga that has long puzzled me is the length Swimming New Zealand (SNZ) will go to, to avoid letting me read the un-redacted Marris Report. What is there about the woman who complained about me that Cotterill and Johns are trying to protect? What is it about someone who has just been found responsible for a $AU1.4million damages judgement against Queensland Health that Cotterill wants to hide? What is it about a family that has left more swimming clubs than I’ve ever joined that is so confidential? What is in the Report that Cotterill does not want the members to see?

It really does beat me. After all SNZ turned down my request for the Report. SNZ then told the Privacy Commission to go away. Now you have to admit for a semi-public organisation like a national sporting body to tell the Privacy Commissioner to go take a running jump is pretty harsh, especially when the Privacy Commissioner responds by recommending the Chairman and CEO go take a course on the importance of privacy. Consider that – the two most senior people responsible for your children’s swimming have been told they need tuition in the importance of privacy. SNZ rejected that recommendation as well. It might be time for parents who care about their children’s welfare to consider a change from swimming to parachuting or mixed martial arts. It could well improve their safety.

But why? Why is SNZ so stubbornly refusing to do what the law requires? I sure don’t know. For three years I have been trying to obtain the Report and make it available for everyone to read. But still the answer is – no.

And SNZ are not shy about spending your money to prevent you reading the Report. In order to hide the Report from you, Cotterill and Johns have deep pockets indeed. We are now about to face the Human Rights Review Tribunal. SNZ spent $2000 in 2018 on legal costs. That went up to $12,000 in 2019. And a provision of $100,000 has been set aside for 2020. Remember that money is not to get you to see the Report. It is to STOP you seeing the Report. Unbelievable – $114,000 of YOUR money to stop YOU reading a Report that YOU paid to have written. Does that sound right? I don’t think so. At the AGM ask Cotterill what he is up to.

Here is my best shot at how Cotterill is going to spent $100,000 next year on preventing you reading the Marris Report.

First SNZ will be paying the legal bills of SNZ’s normal lawyer. That’s a company called the Approachable Lawyer and a person called Michael Smyth. He’s a pom who trained in law in the UK and was admitted to the New Zealand Bar in 2002. My guess is that SNZ are signed up to what Smyth calls his Gold Plan. That will cost an annual membership fee of $2,280. For that SNZ will get 16 hours of legal advice and access – wait for it – to Smyth’s “secret library”. Any hours of legal advice over and above the first 16 cost $225 per hour.

But over and above the Approachable Lawyer, SNZ has scoured the country for the best brains they can find on privacy law. Presumably that means Smyth did not consider himself the best brains in privacy law. That’s probably true. No argument from me certainly. However, what SNZ came up with is a lawyer in Christchurch who really does know her privacy stuff. Her name is Kathryn Dalziel. This woman is good. She does know her stuff. Her website tells me, “Working with me will present you with a unique experience; a blend of my positive personality and my high drive and ability to resolve your case.” Believe me she is going to need all those qualities to dig SNZ out of this mess.

But of course the best is not cheap. Shopping at Harrods costs more than Pac’n Save. Her website tells me this is a summarised version of what she will cost SNZ.

·         My hourly rate for instructions is $400 per hour,

·         In addition to my fee, all direct disbursements and out of pocket expenses will be charged,

·         Although I am Christchurch-based, my practice covers the entire country. I charge actual travel time at 50% of my charge out rate plus disbursements such as airfare, car parking, taxis.

·         Each account is payable within 7 days. I reserve the right to adjust any fee, that has not been paid within one month of the date of invoice, for an interest charge. That charge will not exceed the unauthorised overdraft interest rate applicable to my practice account plus a margin of 5%, compounding monthly.

So what does that mean? Well, for example in a couple of weeks we have a telephone conference call with the Human Rights Review Tribunal. Let’s say that lasts an hour. Both Smyth and Dalziel will be on the call – although why Smyth needs to be there I have no idea. I’m sure Dalziel knows how to conduct a pre-hearing call without Smyth’s $225 dollars worth.

A one hour call for the two lawyers will cost SNZ $625. Let’s assume their preparation for the call is 30 minutes each. That’s an additional $312 – a new total of $937. With paper, photocopying and the like let’s call it $1000. $1000 for an hour long telephone call. Just imagine what an eight hour long hearing is going to cost.

The money SNZ is prepared to pour into this worries me. I am no lawyer and, with the employment of Dalziel, Cotterill has shown he wants the best legal brains he can find. I do not want to see what is just and right lost because I get outsmarted by a better legal brain. I like to believe that justice is good and not simply handed out to those who spend the most.

But perhaps David can handle Goliath. Perhaps Robin Hood can win. We will see.