New face joins council after vote is split

By Lawrence Gullery

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Accusations of "behind the scene deals" were made as business leader Murray Douglas was appointed to the Hawke's Bay Regional Council for the remaining four months of the three-year term.

Mr Douglas, a former Hawke's Bay Chamber of Commerce chief executive, will replace councillor Eileen von Dadleszen, who stood down to take up a role with the Environment Court.

The council met yesterday and had the option of not replacing Mrs von Dadleszen; appointing the highest polling candidate who missed out at the 2011 election - Mr Douglas; or appointing another candidate.

Councillor Neil Kirton asked not to make a replacement because the council did not have public mandate to appoint someone new and the matter should wait for the elections in October.

Councillor Tim Gilbertson agreed and said there were no issues before the election which warranted appointing a councillor for a short term. The council could save about $15,000 by not appointing a replacement.

Chairman Fenton Wilson disagreed and said it was important to have nine councillors around the table. The Hastings constituency would not have its full complement of councillors if Mrs von Dadleszen was not replaced.

Mr Kirton said he could not find an example of a vacancy filled so close to an election and suggested support for Mr Douglas was preconceived.

"I am seeing deals being done to preserve the positions, and to retain positions, by councillors around this table," he said.

"I am suggesting councillors have talked to the likes of Mr Douglas or others, to in an effort to shore up their support."

Mr Wilson, as chairman, used his vote to break a four-all deadlock, defeating Mr Kirton's motion. Mr Kirton put forward David Marshall, a former deputy chairman of the regional council, to replace Mrs von Dadleszen but it was not supported.

Mr Gilbertson came close to being thrown out of the meeting when he insisted councillors declare "what deals" had been made with Mr Douglas or others leading up to yesterday's debate.

Mr Douglas said he understood the council would have to advertise its decision to appoint him. He was sorry to hear there was a split vote on the decision to put him into office.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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