Mayoral hopeful may be barred from talks
A Waimate mayoral candidate may not be able to take part in discussions on one of the main issues facing the new district council.
A second legal opinion has confirmed that mayoral hopeful Craig Rowley and present deputy mayor Peter McIlraith have conflicts of interest in the long-running legal dispute between the council and businessman Keith Williams.
Present mayor John Coles said yesterday the legal opinion was based on the fact the two councillors had provided sworn affidavits in support of Mr Williams' application for costs against the council.
The case, over a disputed building consent, 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.
Councillors McIlraith and Rowley had disagreed with an earlier legal opinion and it was suggested that in all probability, all councillors, the mayor, and the chief executive also had conflicts of interest in the matter for varying reasons.
Mr Coles agreed to seek further clarification on the matter.
"The review has now been completed and the legal opinion confirms the previous opinions provided; that the two councillors are disqualified from this matter."
Mr Coles said the opinion also confirmed no other parties had a conflict of interest in the matter.
He said the matter had been reviewed by a QC who also confirmed the opinion.
Mr Rowley said he was concerned in terms of what he potentially faced if he won the mayoralty.
He had talked to Mr McIlraith yesterday and said he would be asking questions at today's workshop meeting of councillors.
"I think it will be resolved at the workshop."
Mr McIlraith said the matter was a "sideshow to the real issue the community could do without.
"I've had legal advice both ways; some lawyers are saying I should be there and some are saying I'm not.
"My crime is to tell the facts as truthfully as I can, that seems to offend the mayor.
"One would have thought that spending ratepayers' money on top of the huge account already run up is not the first priority.
"Settling this issue would be my priority."
- © Fairfax NZ News