Clark comment breached code

An independent report has found Invercargill city councillor Nobby Clark was in breach of the code of conduct when he questioned the truthfulness of the Invercargill City Council chief executive at a public meeting.

The report, by barrister Robert Buchanan, will be presented to the council on Tuesday.

Cr Clark said yesterday he would not speak against the report or its findings at the upcoming meeting.

The report concerned Cr Clark’s discussion at a performance, policy and partnerships (PPP) committee meeting on August 11, about chief executive Clare Hadley and a code of conduct complaint she had raised against former deputy mayor Toni Biddle.

It was Cr Ian Pottinger who initially laid the complaint against Cr Clark, saying the comments breached section 5.2 of the code, which relates to raising concerns about good governance and the relationship between the council and its chief executive, especially in public forums.

At the August meeting, Cr Clark challenged the processes followed for the complaint against Mrs Biddle, and made the following statement in reference to emails Mrs Hadley had sent him.

"You’re saying, chair, that the chief executive has given a truthful situation and I don’t believe that’s so. I have a right to question that."

Mrs Hadley had outlined in her emails to Cr Clark complaints would usually be presented to the chief executive, but as she was the complainant, she had referred them to Cr Ludlow as he was the chairman of the PPP committee, which was responsible for dealing with such complaints.

Cr Clark did not believe this was correct process.

Mr Buchanan’s report stated Cr Clark "genuinely misheard" when council chief strategist Andrew Cameron outlined the process at the meeting, thereby leading to his questioning.

"He may have made his statement in the heat of the moment, but that does not excuse it," the report stated.

"That the chair chose not to challenge the member at the time, and ask him to withdraw and apologise, may have deprived Cr Clark of an opportunity to do so. But again it does not excuse the statement itself."

This provided reasonable basis for mitigation, the report stated.

In a response to the draft report, Cr Clark had accepted his statement was inappropriate.

Speaking to the Otago Daily Times yesterday, he said he would not go over old ground.

"I had my say in the report ... I will leave it to my colleagues to read that, digest and then make a decision on where to go from here.

"It is up to them to decide and I’m gonna sit back, wait and see. What will be, will be."

Cr Pottinger was also approached by ODT, but said it would be inappropriate to comment at this stage.

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