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Accountant ordered to pay women in sexual harassment case

An Auckland accountant has been ordered to pay $3000 to each of two women whom he was found to have sexually harassed at work at a Maori mental health trust.

One woman complained to the Human Rights Review Tribunal that Stephen Mervyn Cropp, former financial adviser to Te Whare Tiaki Trust in Otara, delayed her pay after arguments with her.

Mr Cropp, whose lawyer said this was impossible as she was paid by direct credit, denies all harassment allegations and is considering an appeal to the High Court.

The women accused him of kissing them on the lips and patting their backsides. Both said he visited them against their wishes while each was staying alone at a trust house.

The trust provides residential rehabilitation under contract to the Counties Manukau District Health Board.

According to the tribunal's decision, one said he greeted her at work one morning by hugging her while wriggling his body.

She said he asked her for dates, and rubbed her knee during a trust Christmas party in 1998. She left for a new job, and said her sole reason for doing so was Mr Cropp's behaviour.

The other complained that he also used dirty or suggestive language.

The chairwoman of the three-member tribunal, Shelley Sage, said Mr Cropp's behaviour went beyond a friendly greeting to something with sinister overtones.

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