Councillors unable to quiz Delta chief

Dunedin city councillors will not be able to ask questions of Delta's chief executive before a decision over $13.3million in bad debt from Delta's involvement in a controversial Christchurch subdivision.

Councillors are set to make a decision about the recovery of the debt, which relates to infrastructure work the council-owned company carried out for the Yaldhurst Village subdivision more than three years ago, at a closed-door meeting today.

The issue is going to the council because of a policy which requires Dunedin City Holdings Ltd (DCHL), which oversees council-owned companies including Delta, to get council approval for decisions which have financial implications of more than $10million.

Details about what is to be decided on remain under wraps, but Mayor Dave Cull said facts relating to it would be made public after the meeting.

Crs Lee Vandervis and Hilary Calvert requested Delta chief executive Grady Cameron be made available to ask questions at the meeting, but this was declined by DCHL chairman Graham Crombie.

Attempts to contact Mr Crombie yesterday were unsuccessful, but email correspondence provided to the Otago Daily Times shows Mr Crombie stood by the original decision not to request Mr Cameron's attendance.

DCHL would instead be available to answer questions.

"As discussed, the matter before council is a request from the DCHL board,'' Mr Crombie said in the email.

"We have been well briefed on the details of the transaction and have developed our recommendation as a board.

"The inclusion of Delta staff will not add to the discussion in our view and therefore we have not requested staff to attend.''

Cr Vandervis slammed this decision and said he would consider a motion of no confidence in the decision-making process, and Mr Crombie, if Mr Cameron did not attend.

"It is not really DCHL's job to tell elected representatives whether or not they are allowed to ask questions of a chief executive that we pay $460,000-plus to a year,'' Cr Vandervis said.

Being able to ask questions of Mr Cameron would help councillors make an informed decision.

He was worried important information was being "hidden'' from councillors for what was a "$10million-plus transaction'' and questioned the accuracy of what Mr Crombie had told councillors in the past.

Mr Cull said it made sense Mr Cameron did not attend as it was an issue between DCHL and the council.

"The request to council is a DCHL request, it's not a Delta request. All of this is coming from DCHL, so that's why it's appropriate to have DCHL there.''

If councillors were not confident with DCHL's information or its recommendation, they could reject it.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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