Tension evident between Hishon and Prendergast
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