CEO accused of covert deal in costly dog case
In- house fighting and a shock admission in an email sent from Deputy Mayor Jenny Shattock reveals the Jimbo case has cost council $ 94,000, $ 20,000 more than it was originally estimated.
An email sighted by South Waikato News reveals what appears to be a deep rift between elected members and staff of South Waikato District Council, with Cr Shattock condemning the advice from council chief executive David Hall and staff in relation to the Jimbo case. Jimbo, an american staffordshire terrier, was incarcerated by Tokoroa Dog Control almost two years ago for the alleged attack on a pet rabbit.
While in council custody, Jimbo is alleged to have attacked the resident pound dog called Justice.
Jimbo’s owner Carrie King was convicted in the Tokoroa District Court under the Dog Control Act.
However, a High Court ruling earlier this year overturned the decision, quashing her convictions.
The council is taking the matter back to court to try to convict Mrs King on a charge of owning a dog that attacked a rabbit, which will be heard in court on January 22, 2013.
According to council, the cost to ratepayers is around the $75,000 mark.
The anger- fuelled email was aimed at Mr Hall, who, according to Cr Shattock, tried to negotiate a deal with the owner of Jimbo, Carrie King, in a bid to resolve the costly battle outside of court without informing elected members.
In the email, copied to council staff, councillors and Phill Shattock, the husband of Cr Shattock, Cr Shattock questions Mr Hall’s ‘‘motives’’.
‘‘I have spoken to you, David, and I totally reject what you are proposing. I question your motives and I question your judgment. I am not willing to release a dangerous dog into our community or any other community and put people and children at risk. I am not willing to take the easy way out here as, David, you appear to want to.’’
It also said Mr Hall had discussed the Jimbo issue with Cr Lyn Corban, who voted against taking the matter back to court.
‘‘ You know the dynamics of council and you chose to go behind Neil’s back and not even tell him that you had arranged a meeting with Lyn Corban to discuss this issue. David, that speaks volumes to me about your commitment to our community and to Neil. I thought there was a no-surprises understanding between you and Neil and I know that Neil sticks to it. It’s a shame you don’t.’’
Cr Shattock accuses Cr Corban of making ‘‘mileage out of a situation, out of our control’’. Cr Shattock goes on to say: ‘‘I am gobsmacked, David, that you are even proposing what you are! Why now after $94,000 and so far down the track and indeed after Malcolm Alexander [chief executive of Local Government New Zealand] has come out in support of us are we being advised to drop this case? Why now after two judges have said Jimbo is a dangerous dog do you want to release it into our community or some other community?
‘‘Why weren’t we advised otherwise at the very beginning of this case, if you did not think it wise to go down the track that you and your staff advised us to go? We as elected members took advice from you and your staff, David. Was that advice wrong? . . . Can we trust your advice, David, into the future?
‘‘I do not support your proposal to negotiate or re-home out of the district. I expect we will follow the course that we started on after the initial advice you gave us.’’
In response, Mr Hall admits talking to owner Carrie King, but says the dialogue with Mrs King was an avenue to explore which would go before the councillors if it was an avenue.
‘‘Yes, I tried to open the door for some sort of dialogue. However, both sides didn’t want to take it to far.’’
Mr Hall said he had not informed the mayor at that point.
‘‘It wasn’t a deliberate move to not keep Neil informed. Neil has access to my calendar so it is not something I had hidden. As chief executive, it is my job to explore different avenues for the councillors, so it wasn’t a question of keeping it from elected members, it was a question of whether a mediated solution was possible and, if so, that was another sol- ution for the councillors to consider. At the end of the day, everything needs to be signed off by the councillors.’’
When asked if the cost of $94,000 was a correct estimate of the court case, Mr Hall replied: ‘‘I’m not sure, it sounds about right. At the time we gave you a figure of $74,000 – that was correct estimate at that time.’’
Mayor Neil Sinclair told the South Waikato News he was not informed about Mr Hall discussing the issue with Jimbo’s owner.
A council staff member, who would speak only on the condition of anonymity for fear of being fired, described the tension as rife.
‘‘To be honest, the entire team need to go, the senior leadership staff and elected members. The tension is rife, it’s not a good environment to work in, nor are they there for the betterment of our district, they are there for themselves, councillors and staff included.’’
Jimbo’s owner, Carrie King said she had received a phone call from Mr Hall more than a month ago.
‘‘David pretty much wanted me to sign Jimbo over to the council to save further action in court. I was not willing to do that because I don’t trust the council, the original dog owner/dog trainer from the Far North was willing to have Jimbo back and it would be a much better fit for Jimbo to recuperate after his stint with council.’’
Mrs King said that, after the initial conversation, the council withdrew from the idea and did not want to progress with working out a deal
REAL COST: The dog case is estimated to have cost ratepayers $94,000 it was revealed in an email written by Deputy Mayor Jenny Shattock.