Councillors blindsided by DVML results

Dunedin city councillors are pointing fingers after some were blindsided by a $3.2 million loss by the company running Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Some councillors spoken to by the Otago Daily Times yesterday admitted they were unaware they had accepted reports detailing the loss at Monday's council meeting. Other councillors were aware of the reports, but were still yet to read them properly.

The ODT yesterday reported Dunedin Venues Management Ltd's annual report - detailing the loss - had slipped through Monday's council meeting without questioning or debate.

Councillors yesterday confirmed they had received the report during a private briefing by Dunedin City Holdings Ltd chief executive Bevan Dodds and chairman Denham Shale last week.

However, some were unaware they had them, as the DVML report - and another from Dunedin Venues Ltd - were not mentioned during the DCHL briefing.

The two companies were not technically part of the DCHL group, and the DVML report was at the bottom of a bundle of reports from DCHL's companies, given out at the end of the briefing.

DVML was also not mentioned on Monday's council meeting agenda, and the DVML report was not circulated publicly - or to media - ahead of the meeting, as required by the Local Government Act.

That meant the reports were accepted without debate, and, as a result, some councillors were not even aware they had done so, it was confirmed yesterday.

Council chief executive Paul Orders said yesterday the situation was a mistake, not a conspiracy, but not acceptable. He had contacted Mr Dodds and DVML chief executive Darren Burden yesterday to discuss the situation.

"We did not deal with this as well as we could have. The council is not interested in excuses. We need to do better and on this occasion we got it wrong."

However, Cr Paul Hudson, the ousted DCHL chairman, yesterday launched a broadside at his colleagues, claiming most were not interested in, or could not understand, such reports.

"That's their responsibility and they've got to take responsibility for the information they've been given and the way it's presented.

"I don't think they received the attention they should receive when they come to the council table."

Cr Kate Wilson shot back, saying she could not speak for other councillors, but she "didn't hear him ask any questions".

Cr Hudson said it was inappropriate to do so, given his removal from DCHL last year.

"I'm being very careful about not interfering and creating waves in public, because that's not appropriate for me to be doing that, even in my role as a councillor."

He was aware DVML's report was going to Monday's meeting, but, asked if he had read it from cover to cover, said: "No, of course not. I used to have to. I don't have to now."

Cr Richard Thomson said he was unaware of DVML's report until after Monday's meeting, as he did not know it was among the bundle of information from DCHL.

He did not go through the reports because "I felt I understood all I needed to know" from the DCHL briefing.

"I have read them now."

Cr Hudson was "entitled to his opinion", but many councillors would "find it difficult to understand the financial accounts", Cr Thomson said.

"I've got a better knowledge than most, but I'm not an accountant, and I find it difficult at times."

Cr Bill Acklin had not read the reports by Monday's meeting, either, and was still yet to.

"If you're talking about every page, no, but I don't think this is about me reading reports. We've been obviously kept up to date along the way with different briefings about where things are at."

Asked when the last briefing was, he said he would "have togo back to my diary".

Cr Neil Collins said he had "skimmed through" the reports, but was reluctant to comment.

"There's nothing that can be done, really. I guess wiser minds than mine know what they are doing."

Cr Syd Brown said the DVML report appeared to have "fallen through the cracks".

He had read it, but only after Monday's council meeting, when alerted to it by council staff.

"That was on my to-do list, to look through those reports in depth, and I hadn't got to them [by Monday]."

Cr Andrew Noone had read the DCHL chairman's report and the summaries from other companies, including DVML, ahead of Monday's meeting.

Cr Jinty MacTavish was unaware of DVML's report until Monday night, so did not ask questions during Monday's council meeting, but had skim-read it yesterday.

However, she had spent a day examining DCHL's report ahead of the meeting, and did not accept Cr Hudson's criticism as "fair criticism of me".

Mayor Dave Cull had also only skim-read DVML's report, but also did not think Cr Hudson's criticism was fair.

"The only person ... any councillor can speak about is himself.

In so far as he said that, I can only assume he's talking about himself."

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

Councillors need time to prepare for meetings

If you want more transparency, accountability, responsibility in Dunedin govt, insist that agendas and reports are given to councillors seven working days before meetings (and also at the same time made available to the public and press.) 

As I previously noted, the statutory requirement is only two days and there are provisions for urgency that can reduce even that.

 

Councillors

Yet again these councillors are only choosing to see what suits them. All too typical of elected officials these days, and it's getting worse by the day. [Abridged]

Get off ratepayer welfare

Here's an idea. Lets have a stadium asset sale. Have a 100% share float to the public, then all the pro-stadium bludgers can put their money where their mouth is and run the stadium as a profitable business, as it was forecast would be.
What have you got to lose? Surely you would want to do this. You would be in a strong position because you would not be shackled by the rest of us naysayers. You could do what you like - after all, it would be your money, not ours, at risk.
Can't walk the talk? Put your money where your mouth is and buy the stadium from the DCC. Get off ratepayer welfare. [Abridged]

Why . . .

. . . are these council-owned companies still in existence? Obviously their employees are paid much more than minimum wage to write reports that no one reads. Sounds really pointless to me and a waste of ratepayers money that could be better spent elsewhere (like debt reduction).

This is not the only area where councillors have been blindsided. They were blindsided earlier into believing this stadium was a good idea. Turns out it wasn't (we told you so) but would they listen to the people? Hell no.

Don't you dare put the rates up any more to cover your actions. You councillors can take a pay reduction to cover the shortfall. Last but not least I mention accountability yet again. It's time for those that forced this mess on us against our wishes to be held accountable for their poor decision-making. I'm still looking for an answer why this went ahead at all against overwhelming public disapproval in a democratic system. [abridged]

Blindsided?

The only way councillors could have been blindsided by the substance of the report is if they had been taking absolutely no notice of the commentary on this site over the years, where members of the public have taken the time to analyse the figures whenever available, updating them whenever further facts were prised out after applications for hidden information to be made public. And this is not the only online resource for lively discussion of money spent and how it has been shuffled around from one entity to another making tracking it more obscure.
There is also plenty of discussion about practical factors, including input from people with experience as well as relevant academic study under their belts.
Councillors may have been lazy, wilfully blind or unable to understand the complexities of financial reports, but one thing they cannot claim is that information that should have prepared them for the inevitability that this shock-horror revelation would emerge was not easily accessible. [Abridged]

Blindsided councillors

Councillors are not only elected officials - they are also
paid to do the job.  Part of any job is preparation and, in this instance,
reading reports before meetings is preparation.

 

DCC's refusal to listen to citizens

This should come as no shock. The public have been saying this for 4 years and each time the DCC just shut their ears. Now it's on paper, but the DCC refuses to accept responsibility, claiming it's another business and not really part of their purview.
We have been called naysayers for 4 years because we tell the truth, but the truth is in the too hard basket for the DCC staff and councillors and the rugby union.
The public have tried to help the DCC forward but they also do not want that help. Now they are asking the public to come forward with ideas and maybe higher rates to accommodate their lack of skill in the stadium matter.
I, for one am not paying higher rates to accommodate the lack of governance - take it out of some other project e.g. John Wilson Ocean Drive, Otago Settlers Museum (or any museum for that matter) but not out of our pockets. [Abridged]

 

Blindness

There is no doubt that based on the tabling of the DVML and DVL Annual Reports that the directors and CEO should be dismissed, but it is of more moment that the councillors who should have an excellent grip on this topical and vital subject are admitting only to either skim reading the reports or not reading them as they don't understand financial reports. [abridged]

Auditing council reports for clarity

Physicist Richard Feynman said if he couldn't explain something to an undergraduate, he didn't understand it himself.

Complexity of a subject does not preclude clarity. Not only councillors need clear explanations but so do ratepayers and residents. After all, for councillors, we elect our peers (as on a jury), not expert managers. There's also often a lot of pointless, long-winded, obfuscatory jargon in council reports which doesn't help.

And since agendas have to come out only two days before a meeting, I don't see how councillors can possibly have adequate time to prepare, let alone ratepayers be informed before issues reach the council table.

Asleep at the wheel

It was worse in Chin's time, but the majority of the current council, hangovers from the past one, are asleep at the wheel.

This has gone far enough. The Compliance Officer should get a rark-up for allowing this to happen. CEOs of DVML and DCHL should be told it is totally unacceptable.

Get rid of this council, now.

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