Mayor to pay $75k in unpaid rates
Far North Mayor Wayne Brown will pay his district council more than $75,000 in unpaid rates to end a long-running dispute.
Brown, mayor for nearly five years, and the Far North District Council both received slaps on the wrist from the auditor-general for a rates stand-off that lasted about eight years.
Though the problems started before Brown took up his seat at council, the auditor-general's report, released yesterday, said the way he pursued his dispute, while in the role of mayor, was "unwise".
The council's administrative protocols also came under the microscope during the lengthy report-writing process and they were found to be lacking at times.
Issues arose after Brown's company - Waahi Paraone Limited - sought to subdivide some land in Kerikeri in 2001.
Soon after development began, complications over rate payments and charges cropped up as the council and Brown negotiated over how certain contributions would be made.
Initially, there was a set fee of $150,000 agreed to, to connect the subdivision to the council's reticulated sewerage system but that deal was amended to stagger payments in a bid to make things easier for Brown.
"The council went outside normal processes to help Mr Brown's subdivision proceed," the auditor-general's report noted. And it did so on "an uncertain legal basis".
When the council made an administrative error in 2010 the mayor refused to pay rates until the matter was cleared up.
Before the dispute went before the auditor-general the council claimed Brown still owed $150,000, whereas he believed the figure was about $100,000 less than that.
After the "legally and factually complex" investigation the amount Brown owed was placed at $76,487.
The bill came with a warning from the auditor-general.
"Mr Brown has used his council executive assistant to follow up on his company's rating issues with council staff. He has also written formally to the chief executive about the rating issues using mayoral letterhead . . . this type of blurring of roles in unwise and creates risk. We encourage Mr Brown to separate his personal and official roles more carefully in future," the report concluded.
"His role as mayor does not create a shortcut for resolving legal or other disputes about rates."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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