Ratepayers stung for mayor's defamation

WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 20:45 28/09/2012

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A defamation case against Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull has been settled out of court, with the city's ratepayers stumping up $29,000 towards legal costs of two former board members of the cash strapped Otago Rugby Football Union.

However, Cull has not admitted liability to the two men.

Dunedin City Council released details of an out of court settlement between Cull and former ORFU chairman Wayne Graham and board member Laurie Mains after a request under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

The pair filed for defamation after Cull's comments on Radio New Zealand in March in the wake of the union's financial crisis.

The previous day Dunedin City Council had voted to forgive almost $500,000 owed to it by the ORFU as part of a controversial financial package designed to prevent the rugby union from going in to receivership.

The settlement agreement said: "The parties acknowledge that Cull does not admit liability to Graham and Mains and nothing in this agreement shall amount to such an admission.''

However, he agreed to write the pair an apology (See below).

Council papers released to Fairfax show Dunedin City Council  voted this month to contribute $29000 towards Graham and Mains legal costs. Two councillors -- Lee Vandervis and Fliss Butcher -- voted against the payment.

THE LETTER

Dear Laurie and Wayne,

I appreciated the opportunity to meet recently to discuss resolving the Court proceedings that you have both brought against me arising out of my comments on National Radio on 15 March. I am pleased that we have been able to reach an agreement to resolve the dispute.

What I said on National Radio was not intended to be personally critical of either of you or any individual member of the 2011 ORFU Board. Since that broadcast I am aware that you have both received significant adverse comment from various sources, It is regrettable that my comments have been interpreted by some as directed against you personally, when that was not intended.

I acknowledge that you were both appointed to the Board relatively recently and the Board that you were part of inherited a difficult situation. You accepted appointment when it faced an uncertain future.

The negotiations between the ORFU and the city were difficult and complex. I understand that Wayne contributed a great deal of time on this and through the efforts of many parties a solution was developed that allows the Otago Rugby Football Union to continue and hopefully thrive. I understand that Laurie and other Board members contributed personal funds to pay small creditors. I do not question the honesty or sincerity of either of you in this process.

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I regret that I did not make it clear that my comments clear were not directed at any individuals, and apologise to you for any personal inference that has been taken from my comments, and for any distress or harm this may have caused you.

I am however pleased that we can now put this behind us so that all concerned can continue to work together for the benefit of the city and citizens.

- Fairfax Media

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