An investigation into serious allegations raised against Whangarei District Council CEO Mark Simpson by one of his staff is over, with no evidence of any wrongdoing or unauthorised use of ratepayer funds.
Mayor Sheryl Mai, who ran the investigation, said there was no evidence to support the allegations raised by Mr Simpson's assistant Ford Watson and the matter is now over, unless somebody came up with concrete evidence of wrongdoing. The matter had so far cost the council more than $10,500 in legal costs.
Mr Watson's affidavit before the October local body elections came after a review of the circumstances around Mr Simpson sacking his personal assistant Jan Walters for signing Stan Semenoff's mayoral nomination form but allowing Mr Watson to do work for another candidate, Warwick Syers.
That review found council protocols rather than Mr Simpson's actions were to blame.
Mr Watson then alleged Mr Simpson was prepared to unleash "skeletons in the closet" after his decision-making was scrutinised. Mr Watson alleged Mr Simpson stated he would respond if action were taken against him and indicated it was connected to unauthorised spending.
"He told me there were many skeletons in the closet and 'the door hasn't even been opened yet'," he said in the affidavit. The affidavit named a person whom Mr Watson alleged Mr Simpson had indicated was connected to the unauthorised spending of council funds that was, in Mr Simpson's view, in the public interest.
Ms Mai asked for direct evidence from Mr Watson but none was forthcoming and when she put the allegations to Mr Simpson and the other people named in the affidavit they had reasonable and credible explanations for the comments raised in the affidavit.
"Unfortunately the staff member [Mr Watson] has put two and two together and come up with eight. There was no evidence of any wrongdoing and that's the end of the matter as far as I'm concerned, but I'm happy to reopen (an investigation) if somebody comes forward with credible evidence."
Ms Mai said the investigation and allegations had been a distraction, but it was now put to bed and the council could move on.
The matter will go to the full council on Wednesday and Ms Mai said she spoke with Mike Reid from Local Government NZ and Bruce Robertson from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) about the allegations.
"The initial and continued response from the OAG was that there was insufficient information to support an investigation by the office without specific detail of items or areas of unlawful or unauthorised expenditure. If substantiated information is provided I would without hesitation refer that to the OAG it being the appropriate authority to investigate such allegations. As it has determined that it has insufficient information to proceed further so I consider also that the matter should be concluded."