Miccio seeks auditor-general's opinion
Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio says he is referring his personal involvement in a new Chinese e-commerce venture to the auditor-general.
"Rather than continue to engage in unwarranted and unsubstantiated media speculation, I have referred this matter to the acting [Nelson City Council] chief executive to review independently, including reference to the auditor-general's office," Mr Miccio said yesterday.
A Nelson Mail story on Friday revealed that Mr Miccio is co-director and chairman of New Zealand e-commerce company NZ Inc Shop, and he and his family are shareholders. The company will source New Zealand products to sell in China when it launches in February.
Mr Miccio met his co-director, Yong York Zhang, through a Nelson Regional Economic Development Agency meeting last year.
Mr Miccio said he had no conflict of interest of any kind between his private business and mayoral role.
"In my role as mayor, I believe that I have always acted entirely appropriately and in the best interest of the council and this city."
Mr Miccio visited China twice this year on council trips to develop business links for Nelson. The first visit was before his involvement with NZ Inc Shop.He said at no stage on either trip did he conduct any private business.
Local Government New Zealand described the referral to the Auditor-General as "commendable".
"This is where an investigation and comment should come from. The OAG will no doubt report on the matter in due course," a spokesman said.
After Mr Miccio and Mr Zhang met last year, the Auckland-based businessman set up a meeting in Hangzhou in April with the president of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.com for Mr Miccio and EDA chief executive Bill Findlater.
Mr Miccio returned from that trip excited about the business potential for Nelson, touting e-commerce possibilities as "groundbreaking stuff", with Nelson companies set to benefit.
In August, Mr Miccio went into business with Mr Zhang and set up NZ Inc Shop to sell products through Tmall, a subsidiary of Alibaba.
Fifteen per cent of NZ Inc Shop is held by Mr Miccio, his parents and his wife, through Nelson-based company Bissi Ltd, of which Mr Miccio is sole director.
Records of Nelson City Council meetings this year show that Mr Miccio had not mentioned his involvement in the new e-commerce venture.
He has declared his interest in NZ Inc Shop on the council's handwritten Members' Interest Register. In an entry dated September 13, he has listed "Chairmen of NZ Inc Shop Ltd [sic]". It was signed on September 17.
Mr Miccio also listed interests on the Whakatu Marae committee and as a member of the Cawthron Trust last month.
Mr Miccio said last week that Mr Zhang approached him in late July to become part of NZ Inc Shop. The websites nzincshop. co.nz and nzincshop.com were registered with GoDaddy.com and listed as hosted by Nelson web company WebTonic on August 1.
Companies Office records show that NZ Inc Shop was incorporated on August 23. Mr Miccio did not mention his burgeoning involvement with the venture at an August 7 council meeting, when councillors approved ratepayer funding for his second council trip to China and Japan between September 19 and 26.
Mr Miccio said yesterday he registered his involvement with NZ Inc Shop when he knew he was going to accept the offer to become part of the company.
"You are only required to declare a conflict to the council table when you believe you have one, so if you don't have a conflict in any of your business and/or private affairs, you are not required to declare this in council meetings." Mr Miccio said he had been dealing with Chinese companies, including Alibaba, for 20 years, through Bissi, and his NZ Inc Shop role was completely separate from his role as mayor.
However, the chairman of the council's audit, risk and finance committee, Ian Barker, said Mr Miccio had been "deficient" in not mentioning his involvement with NZ Inc Shop, and the matter would be discussed at the next committee meeting.
The Local Authorities (Members Interest) Act 1968 requires that members cannot participate in matters before their authority in which they have a pecuniary interest, other than an interest in common with the public.
An internal advisory to councillors from Audit New Zealand about the Members Interest Register says it should include "any interest which an officer might have which has the potential to give rise to a conflict of interest in relation to their role in Council. The main intention is to ensure that members are not affected by personal motives when they participate in decisions and to prevent members using their position to obtain preferential access to contracts".
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