Hamilton CC v Halse: A Public Spectacle in the Making - by Tristam Price

I’ll be the first to admit that Leighton Associates is contributing to making a public spectacle of Hamilton City Council’s claim against its former property manager Allan Halse. This is a mid-sized supposed “employment relationship problem” brought before the Employment Relations Authority.

I also admit some bias in that I became self-employed (electrical trade) about the same time that Mr Halse did. In addition, his employment advocacy company Culturesafe NZ Ltd is, generically, a valuable source of data for our research, and sometimes the subject of it!

As of December 2020, HCC’s long-serving external counsel joins an existing cabal of employment lawyers who have managed to persuade their clients to tap into public funds to finance a war chest and put Culturesafe out of business. There are bankruptcy proceedings by another publicly-funded body against Mr Halse which are being resisted on the grounds that a certain, unrelated judgement debt fell away, though the organisation claims that even though it was replaced by a significantly smaller alleged debt, it can somehow backdate the bankruptcy claim to use the larger amount. The ability to impose any penalty against a third party is also being judicially reviewed by the Court of Appeal.

The Facebook post below indicates that in August 2014, six months after leaving HCC with a payout and a non-disparagement clause, Mr Halse acknowledges that he “disparaged” HCC at a coronial inquest into the death of a colleague the previous year:

(Posted on Culturesafe Facebook page, 4 Feb 2021). Here’s the full link to the 2014 RadioNZ article, which includes:

Hamilton City Council Public Service Association union delegate Allan Halse said he had never been concerned about Dr Mayes health or that he was being bullied at work. However, Dr Mayes had expressed concerns to him about what was going on at the museum.

"Ray felt extremely insecure and threatened. He was worried about his future and his ability to support his family if he didn't have a job," Mr Halse said.

"It became apparent that he trusted me but he was very suspicious of management because of the changes that had happened over many years at the museum."

Because Mr Halse’s “disparagement” of HCC took place from the safety of the Coroner’s Court, HCC management couldn’t touch him. They would have had the fallout from Dr Mayes’ death to deal with anyway.

At the time, Richard Briggs was the CFO but got promoted to CEO soon after. The culture at HCC appears to have improved, and was good for a few years. But in 2020, HCC employees started taking Personal Grievances and engaging Culturesafe again, which suggests that once again bullying had become a problem. One case in particular is the subject of Mr Halse’s alleged disparagement of HCC for which HCC raised a Statement of Problem in the Employment Relations Authority.

Mr Halse’s 5-page Statement In Reply can be found on Culturesafe’s Facebook page.

In addition, Culturesafe NZ Ltd, a company that didn’t exist when its director Allan Halse signed his settlement agreement, is a co-respondent, ie: also being sued by HCC. Here is Culturesafe’s brief Statement in Reply:

Going after an ex-employee for allegedly breaching a non-disparagement clause in a nearly seven year old mediated settlement agreement is one thing, but a similarly ratepayer-funded attack on that ex-employee’s next employer (his own company) speaks for itself, as should the Statement in Reply, above.

Let it go Richard. It’s over.

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