A further claim against Horowhenua District Council has been struck out by the Disputes Tribunal.

The tribunal decision showed that Tokomaru woman Christine Toms, who was employed by Horowhenua Mayor Michael Feyen as an advocate in 2015, had brought proceedings to the tribunal in a $15,000 claim against Horowhenua District Council.

The decision comes the same week that Feyen himself had a claim struck out by the tribunal as he chased reimbursement for multiple engineering reports relating to the construction of the council building.

The decision showed that Toms' claim related to an invoice for "providing substantial professional writing services and expertise as authorised by and on behalf of councillors Ross Campbell and Michael Feyen..."

Former mayoral advocate Christine Toms.
Former mayoral advocate Christine Toms.

In the Toms' decision, Tribunal referee G.P. Rossiter said the tribunal had to determine whether HDC was liable for Toms' services.

"There is no arguable evidence of an agreement by the Horowhenua District Council to meet the cost of whatever services were provided by the applicant...Mrs Toms appears to accept this," the decision said.

The decision said in the absence of an agreement or contract HDC couldn't be liable for services that were sought by Feyen and Campbell.

"Where, however, it is sought to hold liable not the party for whom the services were provided but some third party, the claimant (Toms) would need to be able to point to some tenable or arguable basis for an expectation that the third party would be meeting the cost of those services."

The decision found that HDC could not have had "a reasonably based understanding, or expectation" that it would be footing her bill for her services to Feyen and Campbell.

The amount of $15,000 was detailed as a "contribution towards providing professional writing, research and investigation services" over a period of three years.

When contacted for comment, Toms issued a statement with the proviso it was to be published in its entirety, or not at all.

Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton.
Horowhenua District Council chief executive David Clapperton.

Meanwhile, Horowhenua District Council says staff are stressed out after being taken to court by their own mayor in proceedings that have been described as "frivolous use of ratepayer funds".


Horowhenua mayor Michael Feyen and his advocate Christine Toms both bought separate claims against HDC with the Disputes Tribunal in Palmerston North last week, for $14,892 and $15,000 respectively.

Both claims were struck out.

HDC chief executive David Clapperton said both hearings had been costly for ratepayers and soaked up council resources that would have been better used on key projects.

Clapperton said council resources used to defend Mrs Toms and Michael Feyen's claims to the Dispute Tribunal were a frivolous use of ratepayer funds.

"This has been stressful for staff...it has also been an expensive exercise for ratepayers," he said.

"(It has been) an unnecessary diversion for Council when more pressing matters such as O2NL, growth opportunities, housing and infrastructure, etc, required its attention."

Clapperton said the Tribunal's decision to strike out both Michael Feyen and Christine Toms' claim was not surprising.

"No one should be under any illusion that elected members can award contracts on behalf of a Council. Or that ratepayers will fund work carried out by a person instructed by elected members."

More than seven years after the council building was built, Feyen and Campbell raised concerns about its structural safety, largely due to visible cracks in some areas of concrete in the carpark underneath the building.

"As a result, four engineering investigations of the building were undertaken and all four have concluded it is safe," he said.

Two structural engineering reports ordered by Council were carried out – one in 2014 and one in 2016. Both found the building was structurally sound and safe to occupy.

The 2016 report looked in detail at the concrete cracking issue, and concluded the cracks were the result of shrinkage and not a sign of structural failure.

In November 2016, Council resolved to support the two independent reports that stated the Council building is safe for occupancy and that no further ratepayers' resources be invested in this matter.

In December 2016 Michael Feyen privately funded another two engineering reports which also showed the building was safe.

"I can categorically state that at no time have Michael Feyen's reports been used by Council. A comparison on all of the reports was undertaken by consultants initially when the reports were provided to Council by Michael Feyen," he said.

"I would have been neglectful in my duties had I not proceeded with this initial comparison. That is the extent of use of the reports."