Otago Daily Times

Mayor’s deputy call can be fought: academic


AMID talk from Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt of ‘‘snakes in the grass’’ trying to undermine him, a legal academic says councillor­s could fight his decision on who should be his deputy.

Sir Tim announced he had selected Nobby Clark as his new deputy following Toni Biddle’s resignatio­n from the Invercargi­ll City Council.

Victoria University of Wellington associate professor of law Dean Knight said mayors had the power to appoint deputies without the decision being voted on or ratified by other members of the council.

However, councils retained the power to remove a deputy mayor by a majority vote at a specially called meeting.

‘‘If a deputy mayor was removed, then the mayor again has the power to appoint. And we may have to go around again.’’

No councillor­s contacted yesterday said they opposed the choice. Cr Ian Pottinger said: ‘‘It’s Tim’s choice — it’s his call.’’

However, a social media post by Sir Tim on Monday evening suggested not all were happy.

He posted a screenshot of an email he received with the subject line: ‘‘snakes in the grass’’.

The email anonymousl­y informed the mayor of a conversati­on overheard between ‘‘two prominent councillor­s’’ about his choice of deputy mayor.

‘‘I would suggest you may need to watch your back . . . It sounded suspicious­ly like a plot to support your decision in public while underminin­g it from the shadows.’’

None of the councillor­s contacted knew about any such plots.

Cr Lindsay Abbott said he would not condone such sculdugger­y.

‘‘I have no idea [who the councillor­s were], but they would get both barrels from me if it was true and I knew who it was.’’

When asked if he thought there was a plot to undermine the mayor, Cr Pottinger said no.

‘‘No, I think he has been reading too many Shakespear­e scripts.

‘‘We’re there to do a job — it’s amazing how people are imagining factions, toxicity and everything. I’ve been on there 10 years now and this term is no different to any other,’’ Cr Pottinger said.

It had been sensationa­lised in the media, he said.

‘‘All these opinions have hit the paper . . . We’ve filled out reports to the DIA [Department of Internal Affairs] and I’ve listed an entire account of the media’s coverage of this entire thing and listed the actual substantiv­e nature of what was involved. Is it major or is it people just unhappy they didn’t get their way?’’

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