ACC advocate disputes ban
A Havelock North advocate has been banned from representing clients in dispute with ACC - by the agency's Hastings office.
Eric McLaughlin provides a free para-legal advocacy and advisory service in Lower Hutt and more recently in the Bay, for clients in dispute with government bodies such as Winz and ACC.
He has been banned from the Hastings branch amid accusations that he poaches other advocacy groups' clients and made false claims of being an employee of ACC.
Mr McLaughlin said he had worked in the advocacy sector for almost 10 years and had no problems when representing clients with other ACC branches.
He had a "good relationship" with ACC in Lower Hutt and other branches across the country.
The ban imposed by the Hastings branch was "ridiculous" in view of the fact that his wife Helen, who also worked for his service, could represent the same clients.
ACC had accused him of presenting himself as a former or current employee of the agency, he said. That was "utter nonsense" and did not make any sense as he had nothing to gain, for himself or his clients, from making such a claim, Mr McLaughlin said.
Their "real problem"
was that he had never lost a case against them and would not tolerate any "nonsense."
He had complained to the agency's CEO, Garry Wilson, about the ban, but he supported the branch's decision.
ACC media spokesman Richard Braddell said they declined to work with Mr McLaughlin after concerns about his conduct were raised by claimants, a claimant advocacy group and ACC staff themselves.
A significant concern, but not the only one, was the impression left with some claimants that he was employed by ACC when he approached them on premises - he had never been employed by them, Mr Braddell said.
The "diversity" of people who had raised concerns gave rise to "significant disquiet".
Accordingly, ACC had taken the "very unusual step" of contacting claimants represented by him and advised them that it was not prepared to deal with him as an advocate, he said.
Mr McLaughlin said the ban would impinge on the rights of the 50 to 100 people he represented in Hawke's Bay.
His wife said the ban was "pointless" as she could still pass on her husband's advice to their clients.
"He cannot sit in meetings but Eric tells me what to say and I say it," Mrs McLaughlin said.