Mixed messages over mayor's work phone

Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt at the council chambers earlier this month. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt’s new work phone has been sitting at the council since early last year, unused, despite his claims he is soldiering on with one that is barely functional.

Confusion still surrounds the nature of the mayor’s tech set-up — Shadbolt was unclear about what phone he was currently using when contacted today.

Last month, the mayor queried an itemised invoice for an iPhone 8 Plus that was reflected in his mayoral spending for the current term.

He said he had never received the phone, and believed he was being denied new technology because deputy mayor Nobby Clark and Invercargill City Council chief executive Clare Hadley considered him incapable of using all the features of an iPhone.

"I soldier on with my very old and barely functional phone," he said at the time.

Now it can be revealed the phone was ordered, but never made it to Shadbolt.

Information obtained under the Official Information Act shows that on February 20 last year, Hadley made an order for a new iPhone 8 Plus at a cost of $1093.89 including extras.

The phone was delivered to the information services team shortly after.

However, the phone remained on the shelf because the council was unsuccessful in obtaining the mayor’s existing phone to transfer information over.

Later in 2020, the information services team received a request to have the mayor’s work email and calendar set up on a new Android phone that he had bought.

"The iPhone 8 Plus that was purchased for the mayor is still with the information services team, and has not been used at all," a council representative, whose name is redacted in the Official Information Act response, said.

The person also said they understood the mayor was currently happy using the Android phone he had bought, which was a model recommended by Cr Clark.

Today, Shadbolt was unsure what phone he was using, but said he thought it was an Android.

He asked for questions to be redirected to his partner Asha Dutt.

Dutt said the only Android Shadbolt was using was one they had bought on holiday, which the whole family used.

She said the mayor was still using his old iPhone 7 for work purposes, and had no recollection of the council informing him that the new phone was ready to collect.

"The question must be asked, who has the phone and how do we and the public best address this subversive council culture which denies even a democratically elected mayor any basic rights?"

Last month, Shadbolt told Local Democracy Reporting over email he was battling with a "very slow" iPhone 7 that was over five years old.

He has previously been open about the fact he struggles with technology.

In July, the unredacted version of a report obtained by the Otago Daily Times showed there was friction between the council and Shadbolt over the level of IT support he received.

At the time, independent council observers Jeff Grant and Lindsay McKenzie said Dutt, as Shadbolt's partner, played an unusually large role in the city’s affairs.
Shadbolt (74) is in his ninth term as mayor of Invercargill, and says he is eyeing up a 10th term next October.

- by Matthew Rosenberg, Local Democracy Reporter

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