CEO ac­cused of covert deal in costly dog case

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By FLORENCE KERR

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.

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