The hot rumour today is that MP Rick Barker, in collusion with Hastings CEO Ross McLeod, is planning to fire Mayor Lawrence Yule. At this time, we cannot confirm whether any Hastings Councillors will also get the ax.
Sources say that Barker has been following closely the strategy of his Labour colleague, Health Minister David Cunliffe, throughout the DHB imbroglio. He has been envious of the extensive publicity Cunliffe has received for sacking the elected board, and believes he might be able to cash in as well.
Barker was overheard at a recent riboon-cutting ceremony: “My first choice would have been to fire Craig Foss, but Crown counsel advised me that might be shaky legally. Then I got a call from HDC CEO McLeod, who clearly impressed me as an overworked, underpaid civil servant. And the stories he told me about Lawrence Yule’s constant meddling in Council affairs were appalling. My conscience told me I needed to back Ross up.”
McLeod was shocked when confronted by BayBuzz on the matter, but recognising the cat was out of the bag, spilled his guts.
“I was listening to the other local CEOs in our CEO Support Group and realised how insufferable Lawrence’s micro-managing had become. My god, once he actually asked to see the budget. And another time, he refused to authorise my fact-finding trip to Fiji to study their sustainability practices. He claimed sustainability was his turf. Bullcrap, I have more knowledge about sustainability in my little toe than that borne-again environmentalist has in his entire body.”
McLeod admitted he might not have had the courage to take his case to Barker if he had not received strong moral and emotional support from the CEO Support Group. “CEO Neil Taylor of Napier said to me: ‘Don’t be a wuss. I would never let Barbara Arnott push me around like that.’ And Regional Council CEO Newman advised: ‘I’ve learned that if they won’t let you lead them around by the nose, cut ’em loose. Or bury them in futures planning.”
McLeod added: “But the real clincher was when DHB CEO Chris Clarke — The Terminator — agreed to be my chief strategist for the firing campaign. He’ll be starting right after his mental stress leave.”
Barker and McLeod were rumoured to have first huddled over their plot while Mayor Yule was recently in Rotorua, successfully campaigning to be President of Local Government NZ.
“We realised we had to strike quickly,” said McLeod, “before Lawrence was able to use his new position to promote stronger authority for local elected officials. That could shift the whole balance of power from clever bureaucrats to elected dilettantes, with terrible repercussions for the quality of local government throughout New Zealand. Just look what happened when the elected deputy chairman of the Regional Council got in over her head with Tukituki water consents!”
Added Barker: “Everyone knows — just look at the DHB — that CEOs and their staffs are supposed to run the show. What in blazes do elected officials know about anything?!”
Apparently Barker will be using obscure authority he holds as Minister of Internal Affairs to sack Mayor Yule and hold him prisoner. But he is holding his cards close to the vest, simply saying: “It worked for Cunliffe.”
BayBuzz reached Mayor Yule outside a party at Kelt Capital celebrating arrival of Charter Hall’s $18 million wire transfer for the sale of Nelson Park. “I’m gratified that we’re solvent and can now pay Sam Kelt all those back fees we owe him for the benevolent deed he’s doing for Hastings.”
But his mood soured when we told him of the Barker-McLeod cabal. He was stunned. “I’m gobsmacked, gutted, and really pissed,” he said. “I had even given Ross my own office suite to use as CEO, taking only a small room for myself in the basement. What treachery!”
He continued: “I never, ever call a Council meeting or sign a contract without Ross’ blessing. I even told him I would cancel the sports park tomorrow, full stop, if he thought it was a loser. I turn in my official car mileage records to him. He decides the menu for our Council tea. I gave him more rope than Murray Gilbertson. What more power could he want?”
Mayor Yule pledged he would bitterly fight any attempt to remove him from office. “I’ve learned from the DHB fiasco. Atkinson went too peacefully. McLeod and his staff lackies will have to starve me out of my barricaded basement office. I’m Georgia and they’re the Russians, and we all know who the world is rooting for.”
At this point, Yule paused to take a call on his mobile, and a smile came to his face. “My first legal defence fund contribution,” he said, “from Kevin Atkinson.”
Meanwhile, Hastings Councillors seem to have gone missing. None could be found for comment.
So, the stage is now set for what could be a protracted legal, political, and even physical conflict.
Rest assured, BayBuzz will keep you posted from the front lines.