Auckland Council busted by ombudsman: ‘unlawful and unreasonable’

Phil Goff’s sneaky and furtive ways at Auckland Council have been busted by the ombudsman. Stuff reports:Quote:

The Chief Ombudsman has found Auckland Council’s delay in releasing a requested report was partly unlawful, and unreasonable.

In a 22-page finding?released on Wednesday, Peter Boshier?asked the council to apologise for?its handling over five months?of a request by RNZ for a report looking at the future of the imported vehicle trade in the city’s port.

The complaint was lodged by this reporter while working for RNZ, over?the council’s repeated refusal to release the report, and over internal council correspondence suggesting the delay was intended to allow its release at a more politically suitable time.

The findings include that while the Mayor Phil Goff was not involved, his?Principal Advisor took part?in discussion over the report’s release.

“There was nothing to suggest they acted improperly in this?case, however there was an undesirable?lack of clarity concerning their role,” Boshier said.

“Senior council officials also raised a number of irrelevant considerations during the decision-making process. They may not have been factors in the final decision but they cast the council and its commitment to openness and transparency in a very poor light.

The report was one of the first commissioned by Goff after taking office in November 2016. End quote.

It seems that when there is bad news or pushback on any issue the mayor somehow wasn’t involved. His staff were, but he never seems to be in the firing line. Interesting… so what do we pay him for then??Quote:

He had campaigned in favour of eventually moving the port from the city waterfront, and particularly the space-hungry vehicle import trade.

A draft copy of the report was completed in May 2017, and found moving the trade would be a net loss to Auckland of $1 billion, and up to 10,000 jobs.

RNZ requested the report in July, and its release three days before Christmas came only after the Ombudsman’s Office found the council was wrong to withhold it.

In part of an email chain including key figures in the mayor’s office, a senior council manager noted how the information release might run.

“If Todd objects, his only recourse is to appeal to the Ombudsman, and that process will take time, and may be overtaken by the planned release.

In one email where the names of all parties were redacted, an official commented on the response being prepared to the request.

“Could you please record that this response must be reviewed by the Mayor’s Office please.”

The report was effectively binned, after being paid for by the council-owned Ports of Auckland

Boshier said?the deficiencies found during the?investigation were worrying, given it was?now 30 years since the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act,?governing local bodies’ handling of information requests,?came into force.

“Auckland Council is the largest council in the country. It should set the standard for the other 77 local authorities in New Zealand.”

The chief ombudsman said Auckland Council was conducting its own review of policies, and had?agreed to develop a clear protocol clarifying the role of elected officials when dealing with official information.?End quote.

Auckland Council were bad under Len Brown, but they’ve got decidedly worse under Phil Goff. Whenever a politician campaigns on being open, honest and transparent you just know the exact opposite is what we will get. Quote:

“Now the real job begins, my first priority as mayor is to work to restore the confidence of the people of Auckland in their council.

“Fifteen per cent trust in our council is a failure, we have to do better than that, we need ?a council that is more efficient, responsible, transparent and effective.”?End quote.

That’s a big fat fail from Phil Goff, right there. The voters of Auckland are even more disenfranchised, despondent and have almost certainly not improved in confidence that our elected officials actually care about ratepayers.