Shadbolt plays blame game

Invercargill deputy mayor Nobby Clark, Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt and chief executive 
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Invercargill deputy mayor Nobby Clark, Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt and chief executive Clare Hadley. PHOTO: LUISA GIRAO
It was to be a united-front press conference on Monday when the Invercargill City Council independent governance review findings were to be made public.

Councillors arrived and sat behind the main players: Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt, deputy mayor Nobby Clark and ICC chief executive Clare Hadley.

The report had already been discussed in a public-excluded meeting the previous week and been accepted by all council members.

The press conference was to announce the council was in agreement about the report, which states there is a leadership void, and was going to move forward with its recommendations.

However, it all changed when, unexpectedly, Sir Tim announced, in front of media, that the report had flaws and he completely rejected it, and said he was a victim of a vendetta.

It was, as they say, a good old-fashioned blindside. And, given it was delivered by the council’s leader, the man entrusted to bring an organisation and a city together, to set the standard, it was a blindside that exposed, if it was not already obvious, the depths of dysfunction in this council.

Sir Tim’s statement included a refusal to take the ‘‘mantle of convenient scapegoat just because it fits the recent portrayal of me by recent council faction’’. He added there was a culture of one-upmanship by councillors who constantly aimed to score points and seek publicity against him.

There may be some truth to his complaints. But when looking at a culture of such a group, it is important to remember that it cannot be created overnight.

A retrospective look at Sir Tim and his constant stream of deputies goes some way to showing how actions can indeed create a certain working environment.

A couple were discredited for withholding information, one was told she was creating factions around the council and running a smear campaign, and most recently, Toni Biddle resigned, citing the toxic environment and having to do the mayor’s job as reasons for her departure.

Two of those former deputies the mayor publicly scolded are still on the council.

He has also made it quite clear, on many occasions, that his deputy should always agree with him, despite being in a democratic environment.

While it appears councillors were trying to protect the mayor and the city by creating new committees — taking chairing meetings, something that had become apparent to everyone present he was finding hard to do, away from him, meaning decisions could be made faster — this was seen as a stripping of his power.

Recently, he has also compared himself to Donald Trump, someone who supposedly speaks out and tells the truth. It is not, we feel, an ideal comparison for one of our elected leaders to be making.

What has to be pondered, if the mayor does not believe the report is true and factual, is how the council can put this ‘‘toxic’’ mess behind it and get on with its job of running a city facing numerous challenges in a post-Covid world.

Indeed, as leader, if Sir Tim does not believe there is any fault on his part, will he make any considerations for change?

Ultimately, will his defiant stance and reluctance to assume any personal responsibility for what is occurring round the council table benefit the people of Invercargill?

 

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