DCC curtails confidential agreements

Aaron Hawkins
Aaron Hawkins
Dunedin councillors may find themselves fronting the media when council-owned companies pay unpopular exit packages to parting executives, telling them the details are confidential.

Despite that possibility, the council voted yesterday its holding company should limit employees' confidentiality agreements so the council will in future learn details of such payouts.

Cr Aaron Hawkins put forward a motion at a council meeting this week that would limit the agreements, after council anger over the almost $1million payout to former Delta chief executive Grady Cameron, and the lack of information able to be gleaned from company directors.

Mr Cameron is leaving the company after being criticised for failing to ensure lines company Aurora's electricity network was properly maintained.

Despite plenty of questions on the payout at a meeting in September, company directors said confidentiality agreements meant they could not say whether there was a performance clause in the payout or whether more payments were to come.

Cr Hawkins' motion directed Dunedin City Holdings Ltd (DCHL) to ''limit any confidentiality arrangements in employment situations within its subsidiary and associate companies, such that they don't prohibit the flow of information back to the shareholder''.

A second clause acknowledged there may be valid reasons for some information not to be made public, and ''as such, this may be reported in the non-public part of any relevant meeting''.

Cr Hawkins told the council on Tuesday his motion was not about Mr Cameron or levels of remuneration.

''This is about making sure that when issues of public interest arise in companies and assets that are owned ultimately by the residents and ratepayers of the city, we can be confident we can get the responses we need from them.''

He hoped DCHL would come back to the council ''with models of how this would work in practice''.

That may include an amendment to the company's statement of intent.

Council chief executive Sue Bidrose told the meeting there was no legal impediment to the council bringing in such a requirement.

Asked by Cr Jim O'Malley if it was normal for shareholders to find out such details, Dr Bidrose said in most instances it was not.

''That said, things are different when it is a council-controlled organisation, and when it's owned by you, on behalf of the ratepayers.''

She noted if the motion was passed, councillors would find themselves in a situation where they were told in confidence about a decision the board had made ''of which you've had no control''.

''You are then the people that face the media demanding to know what was in the payout, and you'll be the people who are saying, 'Look, I can't tell you, it's covered by a confidentiality clause'.

''That puts you in a very difficult position, which is partly why you have a holding company to make these difficult decisions within your companies.''

Cr Hawkins said the ball was now in DCHL's court. He had no fixed view on how the motion should be implemented, ''but there needs to be an agreed mechanism to ensure that a greater degree of communication survives the current council and DCHL board''.

DCHL chairman Graham Crombie could not be contacted yesterday.

david.loughrey@odt.co.nz

 

Comments

You would have drafted and signed off on the policy when they companies were created and how they were controlled when they were taken from the control of council, well you are sorting this mess, how about stop council from buying cheap buildings that need a lot of work. The DCC has a lot to answer for.

As usual the greens want to have an each way bet. The companies are either at arms length with all the tax perks that encompasses or they are directly council controlled.

I don't agree with million dollars golden handshakes, but then I don't agree with council staff being paid hundreds of thousand a year to do a mediocre job. Mr Hawkins doesn't need to look far, whoever is responsible for todays little fiasco with speed bumps would be a good place to start.

Yet again KeithMcC spot on with your comments, IMO the DCC needs a reshuffle and more accountability with rate payers coin.
With a town the size of Dunedin do we need as many councillors sponging, I'd cull a few.