Environment Southland chairwoman on leave
COLLETTE DEVLIN AND EVAN HARDING
Shamed Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms has taken six weeks paid leave, effective immediately, but four regional councillors believe she should have stood down.
Ms Timms applied for the leave after being outed for making a hoax phone call to talkback television last week. She harangued Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt about the council's funding of the Auckland to Bluff yacht race for nearly 10 minutes on the Cue television programme, while pretending to be a struggling mother of two called Ruby whose partner had been laid off at Tiwai.
Environment Southland councillors discussed her actions in a closed-doors meeting yesterday, with acting Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell later issuing a statement saying they had unanimously expressed their extreme disapproval of her "unacceptable lack of judgment".
The council is expected to hold a meeting in late January "to consider the council's chairmanship".
Cr Jan Riddell said a motion was formed at yesterday's meeting saying Ms Timms would take six weeks leave of absence; but four councillors, including herself, voted against the motion. They believed she should have stood down.
Ms Timms was given the opportunity to step down during the meeting but indicated that she would not be doing so, Cr Riddell said.
"It was up to her to make the call and she favoured the six-week option."
Since the meeting Cr Riddell said she had received feedback from other people about Ms Timms' actions.
"They are all saying the same thing. She should have stepped down," she said.
Cr Robert Guyton said he was appalled at Ms Timms' actions and he was one of those who believed she should have stepped down as the chair of Environment Southland.
Cr Rowly Currie said it would have been in the best interests of Environment Southland if Ms Timms had stood down.
Cr Brian Mason said Ms Timms' actions were totally unacceptable.
Cr Ross Cockburn said he wanted more time to think about the issue. He was to discuss it further with Ms Timms at a Christmas party she hosted for Environment Southland senior staff and councillors at her home last night, he said.
Cr Horrell said the public-excluded discussion about Cr Timms using a false name to call the talkback show was a lengthly session, lasting about two hours.
Ms Timms was present during the discussion and had apologised to every councillor for her actions, he said.
He would not say what Ms Timms said at the meeting.
It was Ms Timms' idea to apply for the six weeks leave of absence and Cr Horrell declined to say if the council would be voting for her to step down in January.
The timeframe coincided with her leave and would give the full council time to reflect on the issue of leadership, he said.
Mr Shadbolt - when asked if he was pleased that Ms Timms had taken six weeks' leave pending a regional council meeting in January to decide her future - said he was not.
"I don't think anyone will feel pleased. It's part of the whole tragedy of it, really, and it's not a particularly good reflection on local government at all, so I don't think anyone will be pleased."
The fact that Ms Timms had taken leave indicated how seriously all parties, including Ms Timms, were taking the matter, he said.
Ms Timms did not return calls yesterday.
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