Mayor's partner on PA vetting panel

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 17/05/2014

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Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt's partner has been part of the selection panel that has interviewed every one of his assistants.

Shadbolt was reluctant to confirm that his partner Asha Dutt sat on the panel and initially would only disclose who was on the "official" panel - himself, chief executive Richard King and human resources manager Rachel Reece.

However, he eventually relented.

"I am only prepared to mention the official otherwise I will get my head bitten off."

He said only Dutt could confirm her position on the panel herself, because he did not want to be the one that did.

"You talk to her and then you can get an ear bashing rather than me getting an ear bashing, I would rather you were on the receiving end of that, not me."

Shadbolt said he had never employed a personal assistant at council without his partner's presence on the panel.

"She's been at all the other ones [interviews] too, the selection process."

King confirmed Dutt was not paid by the council.

Dutt said she had been involved with organising Shadbolt's diary for 16 years and played an active part in his role as mayor and was therefore in a good position to provide advice.

"It's very important that we have the best person for the job."

She did not have any power to appoint anyone, nor did the mayor, and that responsibility lay with the chief executive, she said.

King said Dutt had been on the panel for as long as he could remember, but he was not sure who appointed her.

It was appropriate because Dutt had to work closely with the mayor's personal assistant as Dutt organised Shadbolt's speaking engagements for the celebrity speaking business, King said.

Shadbolt said Dutt sent about 40 or 50 emails a day and worked hard for both their company and the council.

"She has in effect been a part-time personal assistant anyway all the time I am here."

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong, who also runs a business with his partner Karen, said when his personal assistant was appointed a couple of months ago Karen did not get any say.

"The personal assistant doesn't really have much to do with the mayoress. Any invites come through me."

Southland District Council chief executive Dave Adamson said the organisation only had staff and the mayor on its panel.

"Only people who are directly in charge of that person."

Local Government New Zealand would not comment on the situation and referred the Southland Times to King.

louise.berwick@stl.co.nz

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