Fraudster loses ERA case

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By GUY WILLIAMS

Former TV cameraman and convicted fraudster Damon Forde has been ordered to pay $4500 in legal costs to a part-time Queenstown resident after a failed complaint to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA).

Forde, 47, claimed he was unjustifiably dismissed from his employment with Renu Kumar, as a property caretaker, last July.

In his finding, ERA member Peter van Keulen takes a different view.

Kumar, who’s based in Singapore but has spent four-to-five months a year in the resort for the past two years, advertised for a caretaker last April, with duties including maintenance, cleaning, gardening, driving duties and walking her two dogs.

Forde responded, telling her he did similar work elsewhere and could do it for $40 an hour plus expenses.

Kumar took that to mean she would be one of his clients, but the pair did not make a written agreement.

Last July, unsatisfied with their arrangement, Kumar decided to reduce the workload and the pay, suggesting to Forde she pay him $2500 a month instead.

That didn’t go down well with Forde, who told her he was her employee and she couldn’t reduce his working hours.

When they couldn’t resolve the matter, he complained to the authority.

But when the case came before it in March, Forde played little part in the process.

Although he took part in a case management meeting last November, he didn’t provide written evidence as directed nor show up for the main investigation meeting at Queenstown’s court.

Van Keulen found there was no evidence of an employee relationship: Forde didn’t work with or attend meetings with other workers, or follow set procedures or guidelines.

He’d been doing property maintenance work for others, was operating through a company, had been invoicing Kumar on an hourly rate and been using his own tools.

Conversely, Kumar did not deduct PAYE or other tax from her payments to Forde, but she did pay GST on three of his invoices, all of which supported a contractor relationship.

Van Keulen dismissed the claim, and ordered Forde pay Kumar $4500 for her legal costs.

Forde’s chequered history includes fraud convictions in 2016 for using his brother’s identity to rack up debts of more than $15,000, and more in 2018 for defrauding the Ministry of Social Development of more than $9000.

In 2017 he made national headlines when he challenged then-Transport Minister Simon Bridges to go for a drive with him to see the supposedly dangerous driving antics of overseas tourists.

The invitation, declined by the now Leader of the Opposition, came after Forde posted a widely-viewed video on social media showing a vehicle being driven erratically on the Crown Range Road.

guy.williams@scene.co.nz