Naylor dismisses dual role criticism

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 11:00 05/07/2014
Jono Naylor
GRANT MATTHEW/FAIRFAX NZ
NATIONAL RUN: Jono Naylor is the sole nominee for the National Party candidacy for the Palmerston North electorate.

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Complaints about conflict of interest are niggling at the edges of Palmerston North mayor Jono Naylor's candidacy for the National Party.

But there are local and historical precedents for Naylor's pitch for parliament while continuing to be mayor, and voters were relatively relaxed about it.

In 1981, city mayor Brian Elwood contested the seat, with the full intention of continuing in both roles if he had been elected.

If he had achieved the double, he would have followed in the footsteps of Blair Tennent who was both mayor (1956-59) and a Manawatu MP for two years of a longer political career.

Then in 2011, Manawatu mayor Ian McKelvie continued in his role until six weeks after his election as MP for Rangitikei.

But wherever Naylor goes, there are questions about the ethics of playing both parts, of continuing to be paid as mayor while campaigning for National.

Letter writer Brent Barrett queried his ability to manage the potential for conflict between his mayoral role and his partisan candidacy based on what the writer saw as softening of Naylor's view about the Capital Connection.

And Ross Intermediate School principal Wayne Codyre was concerned that Naylor chaired a National Party meeting on education issues.

"Surely this is a huge conflict of interest. He is our current mayor and yet is using time to attend party political events."

Naylor anticipated those sorts of perceptions when he launched his campaign. He said he would retire from the mayoralty if elected, either on the night, or after a short delay to avoid a Christmas-interrupted mayoral by-election.

He considered and dismissed the alternatives. They were to resign immediately, and put the city to the cost of a by-election.

Or he could have taken leave of absence, with pay, and then the ratepayers really would have been paying him to do nothing.

With regard to the education meeting, he was unapologetic.

"Education is important to this city. If I was the mayor, I would be there. If I was the National Party candidate, I would be there. I happen to be both, so why wouldn't I be there?"

Neither of his surviving predecessors attracted much criticism for their double act. "It was an issue, but not a major one," said Sir Brian.

But the circumstances more than three decades ago were very different, he said, and his experience should not be used to influence what should happen today.

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The role of mayor was smaller, worked around his day job of running a busy legal practice, and the prospect of representing the city both as mayor and MP was not "daunting".

McKelvie said he had been uncomfortable at first about campaigning while holding the mayoral chains.

"But it's democracy, and this community on a per head basis was very tolerant about it."

- Manawatu Standard

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