Editorial: Have your say, but watch what you say...

Last updated 05:00 30/06/2012

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OPINION: Watch out next time you make a submission to Hamilton City Council. You might end up being taken to court.

Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman's threat to sue a city resident because he disliked a comment he made looks like an overreaction and doesn't feel right.

Just as troubling but no surprise is Mayor Julie Hardaker's refusal to get involved and pull her deputy into line.

During Michael Law's submission to the council's 10-year plan in May he said the way the council awarded some of its contracts "had a whiff of cronyism" about it. Mr Chesterman took personal umbrage and this week Mr Law found himself receiving a lawyer's letter.

Mr Law's remarks reflect a view that isn't new. There was controversy in recent years about catering contracts awarded to Montana Catering. It was prompted by the fact that the former mayor and chief executive team of Bob Simcock and Michael Redman had a relationship with a Montana Catering shareholder, Dallas Fisher. Mr Fisher was a backer of Mr Simcock's mayoral campaign and a former business partner of Mr Redman's. When Montana Catering was given some lucrative long-term contracts there were some questions asked. Such issues will inevitably arise in a city the size of Hamilton which is small enough for the interests of major players to sometimes overlap. It does not necessarily suggest cronyism.

It is a further argument for the council to adopt a register of the mayor's and councillors' financial interests which at this stage this council is dragging its feet on.

One could argue that a submitter has the same responsibility as anyone not to defame people and should be careful what he says. But this man is a retired resident who was taking his annual opportunity in a council forum to have his say about how his city is run. Mr Chesterman's actions are sending an awful message. Come in and tell us what you think. But if we don't like it, we'll sue you.

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- Waikato Times

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