Cull regrets museum row being 'personalised'

Any issues involving Otago Museum chief executive Shimrath Paul's reporting to the Otago Museum Trust Board are ultimately matters for the board to consider, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says.

A confidential Dunedin City Council report has questioned the nature of Mr Paul's reporting to the board and raised the "wider issue" of the relationship between the council and museum.

This report, obtained by the Otago Daily Times, is the response by council general manager community life Graeme Hall to a January letter from Mr Paul to the council.

In the letter, Mr Paul had replied to a recent council review of museum staffing, energy, insurance and depreciation requirements, areas for which the museum hopes to gain increased funding.

In his report, to the council community development committee, Mr Hall said Mr Paul's letter had tried to give the impression that a council review report was "full of errors and inaccurate information".

Asked about the museum's role and its relationship with the council, Mr Cull said Dunedin "can be enormously proud of what the museum has achieved".

In respect of negotiations over funding, "there were definitely different perspectives and different points of view offered by the chief executive of the museum and our staff". Mr Hall had "complete faith in our staff".

He was doing the job required of him and it was "appropriate" he carefully analyse any proposals for future spending increases. And there had been "a certain opacity" in some of the museum's previous communications with the council, he said.

In a recent report, council officials noted some information sought about insurance issues had not been received. Museum board chairman Graham Crombie could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

But he recently said the January 19 letter by Mr Paul, which Mr Hall had taken issue with, had been intended to clarify issues which were "not clear" in the earlier council review report.

Mr Paul's letter had been written "with the support of the trust board" to ensure the museum's best interests were represented during council deliberations, Mr Crombie said. He emphasised there was no intention for the museum's response "to be critical" and was not intended to "reflect negatively on any individual".

There had been some understandable differences in perspective, and Mr Crombie believed more dialogue would resolve any remaining issues.

Mr Cull noted that the council provided about 90% of the funding provided by the museum's four contributing district councils. Four city council appointees were on the museum board.

He acknowledged the museum was an independent body, governed by its own Act of Parliament, and if there were issues to be "sorted out" over any reporting to it, this was ultimately a matter for the museum board.

Differences between the museum chief executive and the council staff should be "put on hold" and the main relationship should be "between the council and the board", Mr Cull said. He regretted some aspects had been "personalised".

There was scope for more dialogue between the board and the council, and he remained optimistic about the future.




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