Facebook comment about Shadbolt shocks council

EVAN HARDING
Last updated 05:00 01/02/2013

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Invercargill city councillors have expressed shock and disappointment over a derogatory Facebook posting under the name of Asha Dutt about her long-time partner, Mayor Tim Shadbolt.

The comment on Ms Dutt's Facebook page, posted on Wednesday night under the heading "Asha Dutt", says: "Mayor Shadbolt - King of the f...ing "Old Boys" . . . oh how the ‘anti-establishment' eventually become ‘the establishment'."

Mr Shadbolt, New Zealand's longest-serving mayor currently in office, was a student radical in his youth and was arrested more than 30 times during political protests.

There is no other text on the page to describe what is meant by the comment, but it coincides with the city council's decision on Wednesday to reappoint its longtime chief executive Richard King, rather than bring new blood into the position.

It is understood that, after a lively discussion, all but three councillors voiced their support for Mr King to retain the job.

Ms Dutt is not one of Mr King's supporters and after the decision had been made Mr Shadbolt told councillors that he would be in trouble when he got home.

City councillors yesterday expressed their disapproval about the posting on Ms Dutt's Facebook page.

Deputy Mayor Darren Ludlow said he was surprised and shocked to see the Facebook comment and he questioned whether she had broken confidentiality by effectively telling people Mr King had got the job before it was made public.

Cr Alan Dennis said the comments attributed to Ms Dutt on Facebook were unprofessional and Cr Graham Sycamore said the comments would have been better kept in-house.

Mr Shadbolt yesterday declined to comment, saying one of the unsuccessful candidates for the chief executive's position was taking legal action against the council for an alleged breach of confidentiality.

"I am not going to comment about anything said by anyone until the courts have resolved the issue."

Ms Dutt, when visited at home by The Times last night, did not answer the door despite being in.

The vote to reappoint Mr King was not close, in the end, but one of those who held out was Cr Ian Pottinger.

He said his colleagues on the council had missed an opportunity to vote in a proactive chief executive.

Cr Pottinger was not happy with the outcome.

"The other two candidates offered very proactive leadership for what I think Invercargill needed for the next five years, rather than reactive leadership. That's my view on Richard's leadership. I think he is very reactive as opposed to proactive. I think Invercargill has missed out on an opportunity of two very good candidates.

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Cr Graham Sycamore said Cr Pottinger was entitled to his view and he agreed the other two candidates were very good candidates.

But Cr Sycamore said the majority of councillors favoured Mr King.

"You can only appoint one person and after the process was completed, the decision was made and we all have to buy into it whether we agree or not. Team players will buy into it and support it. Those that aren't will oppose it, I suppose."

Cr Sycamore said he did not agree with Cr Pottinger's assertion that the council had missed an opportunity by choosing to re-hire Mr King.

There was more than one factor to consider when deciding which person to vote on, Cr Sycamore said, adding nothing was achieved by criticising the successful candidate.

Cr Pottinger said that after the councillors had voted to retain Mr King "the victorious team went and had drinks".

"We went our separate ways".

- The Southland Times

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