First term councillor appointed Dunedin's deputy mayor

First term Dunedin City councillor Cherry Lucas has been appointed as Dunedin's new deputy mayor.

The appointment of Cr Lucas comes less than 24 hours after Sophie Barker announced her resignation from the role, citing difficulties working with the mayor 

Before being elected to council in last year's election Ms Lucas was a self-employed business owner. She has an accounting degree from the University of Otago, experience in public accounting and previously held senior management positions at the council and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.

In running for council she stressed the need for Dunedin's one-way system to stay one-way and called for a lack of car parking in the city to be addressed.

She called on the council to get "back to basics" and listen to what the community wanted, fight Three Waters reforms, clean up the city and review operational and capital spending.

Mr Radich said Cr Lucas was experienced in governance roles, including serving on boards for some of Dunedin’s "great success stories" – iD Dunedin Fashion, the Otago Farmers Market Trust and Te Puna o Whakaehu development.

"Cr Lucas is well-respected and has an impressive background in accounting and senior management. She has both the experience and skillset needed to perform the role," Mr Radich said.

Cherry Lucas. Photo: Supplied
Cherry Lucas. Photo: Supplied
Cr Lucas said she was honoured to accept the mayor's request to take on the role.

"I am looking forward to supporting the Mayor by embracing this role and continuing to use my experience, skills and passion for Dunedin in a positive, proactive way for the benefit of the city," she said.

Under the Local Government Act, the Mayor has the power to appoint the Deputy Mayor.

Mr Radich said he was exercising that right but is confident his appointment will have broad support from both councillors and the community.

Cr Lucas’ appointment as Deputy Mayor will be included in a report for noting to the 26 September Council meeting, along with a few other minor administrative tweaks given the change in role.

"I would like to thank Councillor Barker for her service as Deputy Mayor. I have found her to be an enthusiastic and hard working contributor to the duties of the Office of the Mayor. I respect Councillor Barker’s decision to step aside and relinquish the role. I know her strong advocacy for our wonderful city will continue as she remains a dedicated Dunedin City Councillor” Mr Radich said.

Sophie Barker resigns

Cr Barker’s decision to step down from the role followed a tumultuous few days after she and senior city councillor Jim O’Malley filed a complaint about Mayor Jules Radich minimising racial abuse from a community board chairman against a member of the public.

She said she would continue as a councillor.

Cr Barker was Dunedin’s highest-polling councillor in last year’s council elections and was widely considered an astute choice as Mr Radich’s deputy.

Sophie Barker. Photo: ODT files
Sophie Barker. Photo: ODT files
In her resignation letter, Cr Barker said it was untenable for her to continue as deputy mayor, and what she called a breach of the confidential part of a Dunedin City Council meeting late last month by Mr Radich had been the final straw.

It was hard to imagine a series of media comments by the mayor had not undermined the integrity of the council, she said.

Cr Barker said it would have been difficult to maintain a close working relationship with the mayor after having laid a code of conduct complaint against him.

Mr Radich said he had accepted Cr Barker’s resignation as deputy mayor.

"A new person will be appointed and the work of council will continue apace."

Mayor Jules Radich. Photo: ODT files
Mayor Jules Radich. Photo: ODT files
In a statement released earlier, Mr Radich said he was surprised by the filing of the complaint.

"There is no crisis," the mayor said about his administration.

"It has been a cohesive council to date and I expect it will continue to be so," he said.

Meantime, the council has confirmed Mr Radich’s conduct will be looked into.

On August 29, the city council censured Strath Taieri Community Board chairman Barry Williams, and asked him to consider resigning as board chairman, for a racist comment.

Mr Radich then, on radio, labelled the incident as "just a relatively minor thing" and disclosed it happened at a pub.

The mayor apologised for his commentary.

An investigator will conduct a preliminary assessment to determine whether Mr Radich materially breached the code of conduct and if an investigation is needed.

Cr Barker earlier yesterday issued an explosive rejection of Cr Carmen Houlahan’s accusation her complaint about the mayor’s conduct had been politically motivated.

"The only assumption I can come to is that Cr Barker is starting campaigning now for her mayoral run two years out from the next election, which in my opinion is crazy and certainly not normal," Cr Houlahan had said.

Carmen Houlahan. Photo: ODT files
Carmen Houlahan. Photo: ODT files
Cr Barker slated Cr Houlahan for producing "ridiculous theories", "damaging speculation" and "wild, unsubstantiated accusations".

Cr Houlahan said she was shocked by who had laid the complaint, "as they were councillors I had a lot of respect for".

"The mayor admitted he made some mistakes in the RNZ interview and apologised immediately.

"What more can he do?"

Cr Barker said the complaint was filed out of "a belief that the code has been breached in a number of ways and [because of] the need for an independent investigation".

Cr Brent Weatherall said he was shocked such action had been taken by a deputy mayor "chosen for their role by Mayor Radich".

Power Farming chief executive Tom Ruddenklau met  Mr Williams, a company employee, last week to discuss his comments.

Mr Ruddenklau said there had been a formal investigation into Mr Williams’ behaviour, and he had reiterated what was deemed acceptable performance and appropriate representation of their company.

Mr Williams had expressed genuine remorse, he said.

Mr Ruddenklau was satisfied no further action against Mr Williams was required.

The Strath Taieri Community Board agenda for Thursday’s meeting in Hyde includes a "code of conduct matter" among the items the chairman is to provide an update on.

- Additional reporting Tim Scott