So What IS Your Money Being Spent On?

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.

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