Gore Mayor Ben Bell wouldn’t answer questions about when he learned a woman who served as his personal assistant had been accused of forgery.
Shanna Crosby was convicted in Gore County Circuit Court in March of forging prescriptions for tramadol and codeine while working as an instructor at a Gore Health clinic.
She committed the crime in August-September last year while working as a subcontractor at the clinic.
She sought to be released without a criminal record and to withhold her name.
When Judge Russell Walker dismissed the claims, she appealed to the High Court.
Crosby accessed a patient database and created fake prescriptions for tramadol – a strong opioid painkiller – and forged a doctor’s signature, Judge Hendall said.
She submitted fake prescriptions to the pharmacy five times.
“Ms Crosby later tried to repeat the process again to obtain a different type of pain reliever, codeine, but her attempt was thwarted by a faulty printer. Although Ms. Crosby did manage to obtain some codeine, as a result of a printer malfunction, Ms. Crosby’s Employer was alerted to the situation. After that, Ms. Crosby immediately resigned.”
Last year, the 38-year-old also played the role of personal personal assistant Ben Bell after his election in October.
She even traveled with him to Wellington to attend the mayor’s training.
Crosby was Bell’s neighbor.
Bell longed to have Executive assistant appointed to the permanent position, but the board voted to remove him in late November.
The police brought charges of official forgery on November 19.
Police had spoken to her two days earlier, but she declined to be interviewed on the advice of her lawyer, a police spokesman said.
Stuff reported that she was accompanied by Bella’s mother Rebecca Tayler during her first court appearance on December 21.
Taylor declined to comment when contacted by RNZ today.
In last year’s local elections in October, Tayler was elected to the board of Gore and District Health Inc, which was the sole shareholder of Gore Health Limited and owned its assets, including Gore Health Clinic and Gore Hospital.
Bell did not return calls from RNZ, nor did he respond to messages asking when he became aware of Crosby’s abuse.
A council representative said the council would not comment on the matter.
The spokesperson also said Bell emailed them saying he would not be commenting on Crosby.
Gore Health CEO Carl Metzler said he had concerns about Crosby even before she started working at the clinic.
“Ms. Crosby was not employed by Gore Health,” he said.
“She was employed as a sub-contractor, she was employed by Active Southland and this was despite our protests. We were reluctant to hire her given that we knew some of her past history. We were somewhat reluctant to hire her in our health care facility.
“Active Southland decided, given the current job market and the squeeze and lack of opportunities in the system, to take a chance on her and give her a third or fourth chance. That’s why they decided to do it.”
Metzler would not elaborate on what he meant by those comments, other than to say that “it’s a small, rural community, and we generally know potentially more than we should about people, and we were tired.”
In a statement to RNZ, Active Southland chief executive Vanessa Hugy-Paul said: “This was a gross breach of trust by someone who is no longer an employee of Active Southland. Due to privacy concerns, we will not comment further.”
Judge Hendall’s ruling noted that Crosby had one previous DUI conviction.
He also assured patients of the security of their data.
“It was a very isolated case. She was very laser-focused on what she was doing in terms of her drug-seeking behavior,” Metzler said.
“It was a very one-off incident. Obviously, in the health sector, we have to operate in an environment of high trust, and that trust has been broken, and it’s very, very unfortunate. But you can put all the checks and balances in place and people will find a way around them, and in this case she did. To do what she did, you had to know the system pretty well and it was pretty complicated, so she obviously spent a lot of time researching how to beat the system, and she did.”
Gore Health’s systems and procedures have been strengthened since then, Metzler said.
He was sure that now such a crime would be solved much faster.