Stevens resists calls to drop complaint

By Laurel Stowell

2 comments
NOT BUDGING: Councillor Ray Stevens
NOT BUDGING: Councillor Ray Stevens

Three Whanganui councillors want Ray Stevens to withdraw his code of conduct complaint - but yesterday he wasn't budging.

Cr Stevens complained that Cr Philippa Baker-Hogan said, in a public meeting on December 15, that Whanganui District Council infrastructure manager Mark Hughes was biased. The matter could go to a code of conduct hearing, costing the council $20,000.

Last week Ms Baker-Hogan withdrew her charge of bias, saying she was not backing away from the comment but would like council to avoid a costly hearing.

During the weekend the Chronicle received statements from Crs Rob Vinsen and Charlie Anderson, saying they hope Mr Stevens will now drop the complaint.

Mr Vinsen said a complaint against him cost the council $19,400, only to find there was no case to answer.

"Making these complaints is far too easy in my opinion."

Both he and Mr Anderson were also concerned that Mr Hughes' opinion on the issue at stake - increasing the size of a culvert in Wikitoria Rd to reduce upstream flooding - was so different from that of engineers.

Mr Stevens' initial response to Mrs Baker-Hogan withdrawing her charge was to say she was just "making herself a hero to ratepayers" pre-election. But he said he would talk to Mr Hughes about the matter.

Hearing of the statement from the two other councillors, he said they should have come direct to him, rather than going to the Chronicle.

He was not willing to talk to Mr Hughes on a holiday long weekend.

And he was still adamant that Mrs Baker-Hogan should not have spoken the way she did in a public meeting. Her withdrawal had come too late, and she had not apologised.

"You don't slag people off in public. If you have a problem with performance, it should be directed to the CEO.

"If I had made that mistake I would've withdrawn the comment and given an unreserved apology. That's because I'm a gentleman."

Mayor Annette Main was bemused by the series of events. She said everything should have happened in official meetings - not through a newspaper.

The comment would have been withdrawn in a meeting today and the CEO would have advised councillors of his response tomorrow.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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