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Past chairs uneasy over NZAF's handling of allegations

Wed 31 Oct 2012 In: New Zealand Daily News

Silipa Take is facing indecent assault charges Distinct differences of opinion are emerging over the handling of the 2009 complaint to the New Zealand AIDS Foundation which has ultimately resulted in criminal charges being laid, three years on. Counsellor Silipa Take is facing indecent assault charges, relating to two complainants, from his time working at the NZAF’s Awhina Centre in Wellington. While an allegation was raised in 2009, there are differing accounts of how it was handled by the management of the time. The current Executive Director Shaun Robinson has been led to believe that neither the then-chair nor the police were told of the allegation, and that Take resigned. However, Mark Henrickson, who was the NZAF Trust Board chair at that time and says he was told about the allegation by the then-Executive Director, says legal advice was sought and he “believes” the organisation also contacted the police, who, since the complainant was an adult and was unwilling to be named, “could not do anything”. He says senior NZAF staff met with the accused staff member and his union, and the staff member "chose to resign forthwith." "I am satisfied," Henrickson says, "that the organisation's response was immediate and robust." Three past chairs say they would have handled the situation very differently. Jeremy Lambert, who has a background in communications, says he would have instructed then then-Executive Director, Rachael Le Mesurier, to tell the police. "I would have insisted she refer the matter to the police... you never know what other information they might be holding on file that this might link in with," he says. Lambert says he would have expected at least an internal review to try to assess the possible scope of any problem. "I would not have personally been sure whether it was possible to approach other possibly-affected clients in a sensitive and professional way, but if I was assured by those whose expertise is in that area then I would have supported it," he says. Michael Stevens, who has a background in social and HIV research, says he would have advised the Executive Director at the time to check for other Take clients who could have possibly been at risk, especially as they might have needed support. On the matter of The ED advising the chair, "I certainly would have been expected to have been told," says Stevens. "The Executive Director would be obliged to inform the chair of the situation which was one of risk to the organisation. I would have then thought it appropriate to advise the Executive Director on steps that she should take and included in my advice would have been to check other clients." Another past chair who spoke briefly to Daily News says, based only on the information reported in our news coverage of the affair, he would have expected the police to be notified and guidance sought. He now has serious concerns as to why Take's other clients were not "gently" sounded out about any problems they might have experienced. Current NZAF Executive Director Shaun Robinson has stated that with the wisdom of hindsight, stronger action should have been taken "and the NZAF should have done more to investigate whether other clients had been affected." Despite some effort, Daily News has been unable to contact former Executive Director Rachael Le Mesurier, who was in charge of the Foundation's operations in 2009, for her input.     

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Wednesday, 31st October 2012 - 12:30pm

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