Mayor refuses information to impudent out-of-towners

A Waikato mayor is unrepentant after a tirade prompted by a newspaper enquiry about his travel expenses.

In an email copied to many of his fellow mayors, Otorohanga Mayor Dale Williams described as an "insulting" waste of time an attempt by the New Zealand Herald for information on council staff expenses - including flights, taxis, car parking, meals, alcohol and accommodation - during a local government conference in Queenstown this month.

He forwarded the email to the country's mayors who attended the conference "in the hope that ... they might consider not falling into line and providing the information".

The Herald's request was made under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act.

The purpose of the Act is to make available official information held by local authorities and to promote openness and transparency.

Any person can make a request and, if the information is held, the authority has 20 working days to provide it.

If information is refused, the person requesting it can complain to the Ombudsmen.

A copy of Mr Williams' email was obtained by the Waikato Times yesterday, and he appears unrepentant for any expenses incurred on his trip.

"Yes we used taxis where necessary, yes we ate food otherwise we would die, yes we drank wine because I like the stuff," he wrote.

"If your only interest is how many sheets of paper I used when going to the toilet in Queenstown then don't bother to waste either of our time."

Mr Williams also took a swing at the Times for previous information requests, when contacted last night.

He did not appear interested in following the terms of the act and providing the information.

"I don't care," Mr Williams said last night. "My response right now is, bring it on."

He said if people in the Otorohanga District asked for the information he would happily provide it.

He and his wife were the only people who attended the conference from the council, he said.

The mayoress paid for her own airfare and total expenses would have been hundreds, not thousands, of dollars.

But his Matamata-Piako District counterpart, Hugh Vercoe, said media organisations were entitled to ask for information and his council would comply with the Act.

"That's the way the system works. [I'm] happy with that system," he told the Times.

Waikato Times