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Councillor Seeks Ruling from Ombudsmen

Councillor Seeks Ruling from Ombudsmen

A decision by the Manukau City Council to withhold a document critical of its actions has resulted in Manukau City Councillor Jami-Lee Ross seeking assistance in making the document available to the public.

The Howick representative says he is frustrated by the Council’s unwillingness to make the papers publicly available and has written to the Office of the Ombudsmen requesting that the Council’s decision to withhold the information be overturned.

The document was written in May 2005 during the controversy over the citywide publication, now called Manukau Matters. It reveals actions taken by officials in relation to the issue and critical comments by councillors at the time.

During the controversy, Mr Ross and Botany Councillor Dick Quax wrote to the Auditor- General questioning the Council’s actions. The complaint resulted in the Auditor-General finding that council officers had made an unauthorised payment of $27,495 and did not provide councillors with sufficient advice at a key committee meeting.

The Auditor-General also ruled that officers erred in not making legal advice available to representatives at a meeting, a criticism Mr Ross says the Council has yet to learn from. “The Council has a responsibility to be open with the public about information that it holds, even if it may cause embarrassment. It appears that the Council is withholding this information simply because that information reflects negatively on actions taken by senior officials.”

Mr Ross says it took a 6 month battle before the Council agreed to let him view a copy of the papers, despite the fact that he is an elected representative. He has now been gagged by the Council’s standing orders and is prevented from disclosing what he read.

However, he says that the document does not reflect well on the Council and that it is in the public interest that the document is released.

Ends

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