Council inquiry needs to be independent: councillor

A Marlborough district councillor who has accused council staff of corruption has now questioned the independence of the lawyer appointed to investigate the claims.

Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman announced yesterday the council would bring in a lawyer outside its list of commissioners to handle the review after councillor Jamie Arbuckle objected to the selection of Wellington lawyer Richard Fowler, who had done work for the council before.

Mr Arbuckle claims that council staff tampered with tender documents and some people believed the council was corrupt, the Marlborough Express reported.

Mr Arbuckle said in a statement yesterday that he objected to Mr Fowler investigating the claims because he had worked for the council before and was likely to work for it again. This put his independence in doubt, he said.

It was the second time Mr Arbuckle had made allegations about council staff, Mr Sowman said.

Earlier claims dating back to the October election had been investigated, but found to have no substance. That investigation had not been made public.

An Audit Office spokeswoman said the council was right to try to deal with the issue internally before it called for an Audit Office investigation.

Environmentalist Steffan Browning has echoed the call for an independent investigation and said there needed to be a wider investigation of the council's resource management consenting process.

The investigation should probably involve the Ombudsman's office as well as the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Mr Browning said.

"Too often in Marlborough we see the council having a very inconsistent approach to resource management issues which allow significant and negative environmental effects to continue with little community challenge."




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