Conflicts emerge in wobbly wall saga

AL WILLIAMS
Last updated 05:00 23/08/2013

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More conflicts of interest are emerging in the long-standing dispute between the Waimate District Council and businessman Keith Williams.

Both mayoral candidates and two council nominees have links to the case.

Mayoral candidate Craig Rowley and Deputy Mayor Peter McIlraith have sworn affidavits in defence of Mr Williams.

The other mayoral candidate, Sharyn Cain, was employed by Mr Williams in 2008.

And it has now emerged that council candidate John Wall is in a de facto relationship with former building inspector Angie Leckey, who was at the centre of the consent row.

The case has so far cost the council $140,000 in legal fees, on top of an $80,000 costs award to Mr Williams in June. Mr Williams is seeking another $120,000 in costs through the High Court.

The building consent dispute itself, involving work done in 2010 on a garage owned by Mr Williams, is the subject of a determination from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Things became complicated after Mr Williams carried out work on his building following a wall becoming unstable in December 2010, after high winds.

Building inspector Ms Leckey did not accept the work had been carried out under urgency, issuing a stopwork notice and saying Mr Williams needed a consent and a notice to fix.

In her costs decision, Judge Joanna Maze was critical of the council's reliance on Ms Leckey's view and her lack of objectivity.

Cr Rowley said Mr Wall's standing as Ms Leckey's partner would not influence proceedings, while Cr Cain said a conflict of interest was possible. Mr Wall did not return calls yesterday.

Crs Rowley and Cain explained their involvement with Mr Williams, each defending their position.

Cr Rowley said he was initially asked by Mayor John Coles to talk to Mr Williams about the case.

"He has been treated no different to any other ratepayer; I put his case before council and that seems to be the problem.

"I have known Keith for a number of years as an acquaintance."

He would not comment on Cr Cain's involvement with Mr Williams.

Cr Cain said she was employed by Mr Williams at the Criterion Hotel for three months in 2008. The hotel went on the market and she left on good terms, she said.

"I don't believe I have a conflict of interest in being employed by him five years ago."

She would not be drawn to comment on Cr Rowley's involvement.

"I can't give an opinion on Mr Rowley other than it's just unfortunate that some of the lines may have been blurred. I can't make a judgment on Mr Rowley because it is under legal advice."

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- The Timaru Herald

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