Ten­sion ev­i­dent be­tween His­hon and Pren­der­gast

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Ten­sion is ev­i­dent be­tween Com­mu­nity Trust of South­land chair Mar­got His­hon and John Pren­der­gast – amid rev­e­la­tions that a cur­rent trust trus­tee, Penny Sim­monds, clashed with Pren­der­gast in 2008.

Stuff last week asked Sim­monds whether the res­ig­na­tion of Pren­der­gast in June, as trust chief ex­ec­u­tive, had any­thing to do with the spat she had with him be­fore she be­came a trust trus­tee.

Sim­monds said she found it ‘‘in­cred­i­bly of­fen­sive’’ that Stuff was rais­ing some­thing that oc­curred al­most 10 years ago ‘‘and are try­ing to link it to a res­ig­na­tion that oc­curred now’’.

She said she was un­able to com­ment on the rea­sons be­hind Pren­der­gast’s res­ig­na­tion in June.

Stuff sub­se­quently asked His­hon whether she would al­low Sim­monds to speak about the clash she had with Pren­der­gast, but His­hon in­stead an­swered for Sim­monds and the trust.

His­hon said Sim­monds was ‘‘only one’’ of 10 trustees, and any al­le­ga­tion she was re­spon­si­ble for Pren­der­gast re­sign­ing from his po­si­tion on June 9, be­cause of an is­sue which oc­curred nearly 10 years ago, was ‘‘ab­so­lutely un­true’’.

His­hon added: ‘‘It is al­leged that John Pren­der­gast was asked to re­sign with­out be­ing given a rea­son’’.

‘‘The trust has con­firmed on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions that Mr Pren­der­gast did re­sign, which was a de­ci­sion that he made, and any ques­tions about his rea­sons for do­ing so should be di­rected to him,’’ she said.

Pren­der­gast said he had signed a con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ment when he de­parted the trust but, given His­hon had made a state­ment and in­vited him to re­spond, he would.

‘‘The only thing that is ab­so­lutely un­true is Mrs His­hon’s state­ment,’’ he said. ‘‘And, with re­spect to my res­ig­na­tion, I re­signed be­cause on April 7, 2017, the CTOS board, chaired by Mrs His­hon, in­structed their so­lic­i­tor to ad­vise me that they had unan­i­mously de­cided to exit me as the trust’s CEO.

‘‘At no stage has Mrs His­hon ever dis­cussed with me the rea­sons why the board wished me to re­sign.’’

His­hon said the trust would not be re­spond­ing to Pren­der­gast’s ‘‘al­le­ga­tions’’.

Cor­re­spon­dence, ob­tained by Stuff, re­veals Sim­monds, in her se­nior role with Hockey South­land in 2008, was highly crit­i­cal of Pren­der­gast when the hockey or­gan­i­sa­tion was seek­ing fund­ing from the com­mu­nity trust.

The trust had ap­proved a $1m grant to Hockey South­land for its new hockey turfs, but Sim­monds be­came up­set, and let her feel­ings known via email to var­i­ous peo­ple, in­clud­ing Pren­der­gast, when Pren­der­gast told her the fund­ing would not be handed over un­til Hockey South­land con­firmed all its other fund­ing for the project was in place.

Pren­der­gast and the com­mu­nity trust trustees of the day, how­ever, in­sisted that one of the con­di­tions of the trust’s grant ap­proval was that all other fund­ing for the project was con­firmed be­fore it was able to pay the grant.

This was stan­dard prac­tice for the trust, they said.

Sim­monds later apol­o­gised Pren­der­gast, the emails re­veal. But the mat­ter did not end there. Hockey South­land later con­firmed all its other fund­ing was in place for the project, so the trust handed over its $1m grant in the win­ter of 2008, cor­re­spon­dence from the trust to Hockey South­land says.

But Hockey South­land had not ac­tu­ally se­cured all the other fund­ing for its hockey project, and had a nearly $200,000 short­fall, ‘‘such that one of the ma­jor con­trac­tors of the project [In­ver­cargill City Coun­cil] could not be paid’’, the trust says in cor­re­spon­dence to Sim­monds in 2010.

Pren­der­gast, in a spe­cial re­port to CTOS trustees, gave four sce­nar­ios as to why Hockey South­land was say­ing it could not pay the coun­cil, in­clud­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion be­ing ‘‘less than hon­est’’ to have told the trust it had se­cured all the other fund­ing.

Pren­der­gast, when asked last week to com­ment on the Hockey South­land spat, to said he could not com­ment ‘‘wouldn’t be ap­pro­pri­ate’’.

When Pren­der­gast re­signed from the trust in June, a group of former trust trustees raised se­ri­ous con­cerns over how he was treated by the cur­rent trustees, and asked as­so­ciate fi­nance min­is­ter Amy Adams to ur­gently in­ves­ti­gate.

Adams has agreed to meet with the former trustees to hear their con­cerns af­ter the elec­tion, if she still holds her port­fo­lio.

It is un­der­stood details of the clash be­tween Sim­monds and Pren­der­gast from 2008 to 2010 will form part of the dis­cus­sions.

Cur­rent trust trustees, in­clud­ing His­hon and Sim­monds, have re­fused to dis­cuss the rea­sons be­hind Pren­der­gast’s de­par­ture. as it Pren­der­gast

Mar­got His­hon

John Pren­der­gast

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