BOP DHB v Shaw Zombie SLAPP: Geoff Davenport to the rescue?! By Karen Davis

This article in Stuff by Benn Bathgate sets out the Public Relations work that dealt with the fallout from the culturally insensitive covid-19 pamphlets issued by Bay of Plenty District Health Board.

The images on the pamphlets speak for themselves, but from what we can see that followed it was mostly good PR work over a four month period.

“Stuff obtained the executive summary into the investigation conducted by lawyer Geoff Davenport and mediator and business consultant Ken Raureti​ via an Official Information Act request, and spoke to DHB chief executive Pete Chandler.”

The executive summary in the OIA response, and informal requests of management did not reveal who the consulting company was but Stuff managed to find out some other way.

As reported, there were two investigators: Ken Raureti from Rotorua, Bay of Plenty and Geoff Davenport from Wellington.

This appears to make sense for two reasons.

  • While Mr Raureti has local knowledge, the other investigator Mr Davenport, being an “outsider” is unlikely to be influenced by local politics.

  • Given that Mr Davenport is an employment barrister, that hints at disciplinary processes in relation to internal approval of the pamphlets.

BOP DHB’s choice of “outsider” employment lawyer is interesting to us for one reason only.

We would be very surprised if Geoff Davenport didn’t meet local barrister Mark Beech to give guidance on a SLAPP – a type of counter claim in the employment jurisdictions, that takes on a life of its own, disastrously for the employer bringing the claim. On 28 August we reported on BOP DHB’s caginess in relation to both the covid pamphlet and the SLAPP:

... and a 13 November update on the status of the SLAPP here:

2017 and 2018 are two years former ERA Member Fitzgibbon would almost certainly want to forget – in 2017 she also ordered a Wellington lawyer to pay two of her so-called superiors $3,750 each for disparaging them, and the resulting appeals cost the employer concerned around $500,000 in legal costs. That lawyer, Dr Caroline Sawyer, has gone on to defend Ms Shaw and Mr Halse against the SLAPP brought by the DHB...” (3rd to last paragraph)

One ERA Member, two SLAPPs as responses to personal grievance claims. One of the targets was a lawyer, the other a cardiac physiologist. The barristers who brought these SLAPPs on behalf of their clients were – you guessed it – Geoff Davenport and Mark Beech. The fact that these two proceedings were brought in the first place was so disastrous that whether they are/were successful or not was largely irrelevant.

While on paper Geoff Davenport appears to be a good fit for the investigation into “pamphletgate”, we suspect he was really called in as a “SLAPP gone wrong” specialist, possibly the only one in the country. But at this point, what can he do?

Leighton Associates thanks Benn Bathgate and Stuff for going to the trouble of making the OIA request, which has provided us with this research material that we wouldn’t have otherwise had.

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