Mayor's partner shocks council

22:51, Feb 08 2013

Invercargill city councillors have expressed shock and disappointment over a derogatory Facebook posting by 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 "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 Ms Dutt's Facebook comments 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.

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 comment about Mr Shadbolt underneath the name of his partner, Asha Dutt, on her Facebook page says:

"Mayor Shadbolt - king of the ‘Old Boys' . . . oh how the ‘anti-establishment' eventually become ‘the establishment'."

This is what the Invercargill city councillors think of her comment.

Mayor Tim Shadbolt: Declined to comment about the issue yesterday.

Deputy Mayor Darren Ludlow: "As an individual she [Ms Dutt] is allowed to have an opinion . . . I was surprised to see it and a bit shocked." Cr Ludlow said the online comments attributed to Ms Dutt on Wednesday night had potentially breached confidentiality. "It's disappointing that people would have been able to figure out the result of the [chief executive appointment] before it was publicly announced; it was still embargoed."

Graham Sycamore: He did not think it appropriate for the mayor's partner to air her dispute with the mayor in the public domain. "She is entitled to her view. But it wasn't that long ago she was saying she was a fairly private sort of person and I would have thought those sorts of comments should be kept in-house. If me and my wife have a difference of opinion, we don't go shouting it to the world, as most couples don't . . . it's unusual for a partner of a high-profile person to be publicly so opposite."

Norman Elder: "It's most extraordinary, and almost a breach of confidence."

Neil Boniface: Declined to comment: "You know I can't possibly comment on domestic relations . . . I have already got into trouble with Tim over other things and I am not the flavour of the month with Asha either."

Alan Dennis: "If that's attributed to her, it's extremely disappointing and very unprofessional. If I was Tim, I would be very disappointed in Asha for not being supportive. He is a long-serving mayor and he has every right to express his own view and own vote, whatever that might be."

Lloyd Esler: He thought it was inappropriate for Ms Dutt to make such comments about Mr Shadbolt on Facebook but said what happened on Facebook was often some way removed from reality.

"From her position as the mayor's partner it's not really appropriate to be commenting on councillors and council matters. I think in a position like that you need to be pretty neutral."

Ian Pottinger: He said Ms Dutt's comments were perhaps a reaction to Mr Shadbolt being the "kingmaker" in the council's decision to re-hire Mr King. Her comments may have also reflected the fact that most of the "old boys" on the council had voted for Mr King to be chief executive, Mr Pottinger said. "It (Ms Dutt's comment) is a pretty strong statement, isn't it?"

Graham Lewis: Declined to comment on Ms Dutt's Facebook posting, but said he did want to comment about the chief executive decision, saying the best man won.

Carolyn Dean: ''I don't have a comment to make about Asha's comments but I can relate, like most women can, to sometimes feeling frustrations with one's partner.''

Lindsay Abbott and Thelma Buck declined to comment and Lindsay Thomas could not be contacted for comment.

The Southland Times