Complaint made to Auditor-General's office over Napier Mayor Bill Dalton's alleged bias
The Office of the Auditor General has been asked to investigate the actions of Napier Mayor Bill Dalton over a claim that he has expressed bias in the process of recruiting a council chief executive.
Last week Stuff revealed the contents of an email Dalton sent his 12 councillors on July 27.
The contract held by present chief executive Wayne Jack was lapsing and the position had been advertised, with a closing date of last Friday.
Dalton told his councillors they needed to support Jack, who had held the position since 2013.
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He said the recruitment agency had received "a number of applications" and "I am also aware through local government contracts... that Wayne has been asked to apply for two upcoming LG [local government vacancies]. This on the back of our two recent awards for excellence. Both these positions would offer him a significant increase in income," Dalton said.
He said Jack had come in for intense personal attacks on social media and "as councillors I believe we need to stand by our man".
"The purpose of this letter is to ask you all to show support to your chief executive. To ask people you know to publicly, through social media and the newspapers, to acknowledge the progress we are making as a council," he wrote.
Employment lawyer Andrew Scott-Howman said advertising a position when there was every intention of appointing the incumbent could be seen as "contrary to good faith".
"If you do advertise, you do have to be open-minded. Any suggestion you may have pre-determined the outcome, or be closed-minded to someone else who comes along, then effectively it brings the process into question," Scott-Howman said.
Dalton later said any suggestion he had a bias was "nonsense".
But former city councillor John Harrison felt Dalton had shown clear bias and had complained to the Auditor General.
Harrison, who was a councillor for nine years, said "it's critical to ratepayers, for the sake of openness and transparency that he remove himself from the selection process".
"There is an evident level of predetermination here and the process should be left to a competent third party," Harrison said.
He asked the office to treat the complaint with urgency.
The office confirmed it had received the complaint on Monday and would consider the request to investigate.
The decision on who would be appointed chief executive would be made by a subcommittee consisting of Dalton, deputy mayor Faye White and councillor Tony Jeffery.
The council did not wish to comment.