Transport chairing role set for challenge

Legal risk from secret ballots assessed as low

Legal risk from secret ballots assessed as low

Meredith Akuhata-Brown

DISTRICT councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown feels she was unfairly treated in the election process for the chairmanship of the regional transport committee, and intends to raise the issue at the next council meeting. The process that involved a secret ballot was not a fair one and she felt ripped off and angry after the meeting, she said.

If a recommendation from chief executive Judy Campbell that the council confirm the chairs at its meeting on December 1 is taken up, she says she will challenge the appointment of Bill Burdett. She said she had nothing personal against Mr Burdett but that the process was wrong and the chairmanship role was snatched away from her at the last moment.

She and Larry Foster had made their speeches seeking the chair and there were clear indications among the councillors that she had won. At that point Mr Burdett, who had been absent, came into the room and spoke. He was asked by another councillor if he was available and said he was. He was then included in the formal ballot.

When Mayor Meng Foon asked for indications of interest from councillors about committee roles prior to the meeting, Mr Burdett had not put his name in — the only two who did so were herself and Mr Foster. It was quite unfair for Mr Burdett to be included at that stage, said Mrs Akuhata-Brown.

Akuhata-Brown had been congratulated

She had already been congratulated after her speech by councillor Pat Seymour, who commented that she had got the chair role. She felt angry that both Mr Foster and herself, the second and third highest polling city ward candidates, were left without a chairmanship.

“Larry and I got 10,667 votes between us,” she said. “The wishes of those who supported us have been ignored.”

She did not accept a comment made earlier by Andy Cranston during the community development committee election that the council should not be influenced too strongly by the polls. The voters had shown they felt that she and Mr Foster were ready to step up and that was what she had tried to do.

She said she had worked hard to upskill herself and done a lot of due diligence on the regional transport role. She wanted to improve her governance skills and that was why she had stood for, and been elected to, the Hauora Tairawhiti health board.

“It was a poor process and I want to challenge it,” she said.

Confirmation of appointments at next meeting

The council is being advised to confirm the appointment of committee chairs at its next full meeting next month. This is the latest development in the election of two chairs, for the council’s community development and regional transport committees, by secret ballot. There has been criticism of the process involved in the chairmanship election method which had not been used previously by the council, and queries as to its legality.

In answer to a question from The Herald, council chief executive Judy Campbell acknowledged that secret ballots had not been common practice at the council. The Local Government Act was not supportive of council actions not being transparent to the public, she said. However, the method used for this particular process was considered appropriate in the circumstances.

“The recorded voting on committee chairs did reflect the majority view of the council,” she said.

An outside legal opinion was obtained.

“The legal risk has been assessed as very low. There is definitely no effect on the legal status of the committees or their decisions.”

Staff advice to the councillors was that to remove any residual uncertainty or risk, the appointments of the committee chairs be confirmed by normal resolution at the council meeting on December 1. It was up to the councillors if they wished to proceed with this.

'Result of a fair democracy'

Mayor Meng Foon said after the elections the council had met to talk about chairmanships and committees.

“I asked what method did they want me to use for the chairperson positions,” he said. “As we all know there were two.”

The Mayor could appoint, or the council could appoint by voting.

“All said to me to choose the voting method. The result is the result of a fair democracy,” said Mr Foon.

DISTRICT councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown feels she was unfairly treated in the election process for the chairmanship of the regional transport committee, and intends to raise the issue at the next council meeting. The process that involved a secret ballot was not a fair one and she felt ripped off and angry after the meeting, she said.

If a recommendation from chief executive Judy Campbell that the council confirm the chairs at its meeting on December 1 is taken up, she says she will challenge the appointment of Bill Burdett. She said she had nothing personal against Mr Burdett but that the process was wrong and the chairmanship role was snatched away from her at the last moment.

She and Larry Foster had made their speeches seeking the chair and there were clear indications among the councillors that she had won. At that point Mr Burdett, who had been absent, came into the room and spoke. He was asked by another councillor if he was available and said he was. He was then included in the formal ballot.

When Mayor Meng Foon asked for indications of interest from councillors about committee roles prior to the meeting, Mr Burdett had not put his name in — the only two who did so were herself and Mr Foster. It was quite unfair for Mr Burdett to be included at that stage, said Mrs Akuhata-Brown.

Akuhata-Brown had been congratulated

She had already been congratulated after her speech by councillor Pat Seymour, who commented that she had got the chair role. She felt angry that both Mr Foster and herself, the second and third highest polling city ward candidates, were left without a chairmanship.

“Larry and I got 10,667 votes between us,” she said. “The wishes of those who supported us have been ignored.”

She did not accept a comment made earlier by Andy Cranston during the community development committee election that the council should not be influenced too strongly by the polls. The voters had shown they felt that she and Mr Foster were ready to step up and that was what she had tried to do.

She said she had worked hard to upskill herself and done a lot of due diligence on the regional transport role. She wanted to improve her governance skills and that was why she had stood for, and been elected to, the Hauora Tairawhiti health board.

“It was a poor process and I want to challenge it,” she said.

Confirmation of appointments at next meeting

The council is being advised to confirm the appointment of committee chairs at its next full meeting next month. This is the latest development in the election of two chairs, for the council’s community development and regional transport committees, by secret ballot. There has been criticism of the process involved in the chairmanship election method which had not been used previously by the council, and queries as to its legality.

In answer to a question from The Herald, council chief executive Judy Campbell acknowledged that secret ballots had not been common practice at the council. The Local Government Act was not supportive of council actions not being transparent to the public, she said. However, the method used for this particular process was considered appropriate in the circumstances.

“The recorded voting on committee chairs did reflect the majority view of the council,” she said.

An outside legal opinion was obtained.

“The legal risk has been assessed as very low. There is definitely no effect on the legal status of the committees or their decisions.”

Staff advice to the councillors was that to remove any residual uncertainty or risk, the appointments of the committee chairs be confirmed by normal resolution at the council meeting on December 1. It was up to the councillors if they wished to proceed with this.

'Result of a fair democracy'

Mayor Meng Foon said after the elections the council had met to talk about chairmanships and committees.

“I asked what method did they want me to use for the chairperson positions,” he said. “As we all know there were two.”

The Mayor could appoint, or the council could appoint by voting.

“All said to me to choose the voting method. The result is the result of a fair democracy,” said Mr Foon.

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