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Source: Taxpayers Union

2 MARCH 2021FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEThe New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union is condemning Hutt City Council’s legal action against a former councillor, Max Shierlaw, who blew the whistle on a costly proposed restructure. Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke says, “This reeks of a council exploiting its position of power to create legal costs and misery for one of its vocal critics. And the ratepayer-funded witch hunt for whichever staff member passed on the document will only serve to sow fear, distrust, and dysfunction among council employees.” “Information leaks of this kind are part and parcel of democracy. Journalists regularly publish leaked information without legal reprisal from control freak council bureaucrats.” “We understand the full paper was presented to hundreds of staff at the Lower Hutt Events Centre, and was made available to all approximately 550 staff (470 FTEs) on the Council’s staff intranet. Now the Chief Executive is indignant that it was passed around and part of it eventually ended up on social media.” “Let’s be clear – this isn’t some secret policy document with ramifications on the value of properties for example. It is a consultation document available to every single council staffer. The Council’s action for an interim injunction speaks more to the culture within management, than the information itself.” The Union understands the material published by Mr Shierlaw – only one page of any substance – showed the proposed structure of the Chief Executive’s office, with just job titles with no individuals named. It showed only minor adjustments to four job roles, and one new position: an assistant to the Council’s solicitor. “The new position will, presumably, better enable the Council to pursue more legal vendettas of this kind,” says Mr Houlbrooke. “There was nothing confidential in any real sense in what Mr Shierlaw posted to Facebook.  It appears that the legal action may be based more on personal animus than on real damage to the Council.” The Union understands the proposed restructure would increase staff numbers by 40. This is in line with the Council’s Long-Term Plan which shows salary costs increasing from $37 million to $40 million – an 8% increase. “The leaked material reveals a continuation of the costly empire-building that has occurred within Council under the new Mayor,” says Mr Houlbrooke. “The new CEO has created a new ‘Office of the Chief Executive’, abandoning the previous CEO’s open-plan desk where he sat amongst staff, commandeering the largest meeting room on the floor and installing a secretary outside.” “Meanwhile, the new Mayor has doubled his staff from two to four, hired his former campaign manager as ‘Head of the Mayor’s Office’ (a new position).  No previous Mayor at Hutt City Council has had a ‘Mayor’s office’.  The Mayor also spent thousands knocking down a wall and converting an adjoining meeting room into a larger space to accommodate the doubled head count.” “We are increasingly concerned about reports of more legal threats, legal action and intimidation by local authorities across the country seeking to silence criticism from the community and whistle-blowing within their organisations.” “We’re asking staff at Hutt City Council and councils across the country to send any information on such instances to tipline@taxpayers.org.nz. We keep our sources anonymous.”

MIL OSI