When a public official or candidate over-promotes their track record, they raise for themselves a legitimate concern about credibility, deserving of public scrutiny.

David Cunliffe is on the hotseat for misrepresenting claimed public service in his past. It seems he might have over-polished his involvement with various community service groups.

Closer to home, we have the curious case of Regional Council candidate Murray Douglas, as recently revealed by a conservative political blog, Whale Oil.

Douglas presents himself as a poster child of prior local government service. This glowing history is the chief qualification for office he promotes in his campaign presentations, including his campaign brochure and his profile in the Voters Guide. He suggests to voters that he left service at the height of his career as chief executive of Sydney, returned across the Tasman Sea, and became chief executive of the HB Chamber of Commerce.

But that story now appears to omit some key details.

It turns out that Mr Douglas ‘prematurely’ left his two most touted positions — in Dunedin and Sydney — collecting a $249,300 payment in the first instance, and a $100,000 payment in the second (in Sydney, he actually served only six months before leaving in 2001). Then he disappeared from the radar completely for several years, before arriving in Hawke’s Bay in 2008.

No doubt Mr Douglas can explain this revised storyline. A few job ‘hiccups’ are not necessarily disbarring. However, given the high importance he wants voters to assign to his public service background, he certainly owes them that explanation.

Napier candidate Richard McGrath wrote an excellent column in last weekend’s HB Today. He said: “With all job interviews you should be able to produce a CV outlining previous roles and references and be prepared to answer a myriad of questions in order to gain insight into a person’s personality and character … This is the time for the public to rattle a few cages and shake a few trees. Find those skeletons and see if their preferred councillor can hold up to this type of scrutiny.”

Amen, I say to that. Local elections are as much, if not more, about taking the measure of the man or woman as they are about issue positions.

Voting is already underway, based in part upon a ‘not quite the full story’ Voters Guide profile in Douglas’ case that will be seen by all voters (and for many, serve as their only source of information). Given that, the public should expect our local media will endeavor — quickly — to bring more precision to Douglas’ history, offering him full opportunity to paint in the details.

Tom Belford

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4 Comments

  1. Tom, so what is new ?
    Here in Napier we have at least one councillor and Mayoral candidate omitting the fact that they have operated a failed business, leaving creditors unsuccessfully chasing monies due.
    For some reason this is not mentioned in the Voters Guide!
    Now the same individual wishes to run a $60 million business which is the NCC.
    In the interests of ratepayers electors should not vote for a sitting councillor running for this position.

  2. I thought I would have to get in the queue. Welcome back John, I have missed your reasoned and well researched comment, not to mention your special skills for delivering the message.

    At the Mayoral debate, the NCC business was $80 million which was a surprise because I remember $42 million not that long ago. No wonder households are struggling to fill these coffers? Why does the Council want to control most of my pension?

    When you have an organisation deciding their expenditure (wish list) then simply adjusting the revenue (rate demands) to suit, business reality and accountability becomes a task for the real world. Take the expedient buses, the over the top MTG, the onerous costs for the Aquarium and the non profit and non supervised Marine Parade amenities, we are short on revenue attractions.

    At a function, we quizzed a Councillor standing for re-election. Question – could you spend ratepayers funds as if it was your own money. The blank stare was followed by “what do you mean”. Can somebody tell me how I can vote for somebody to run Council when I wouldn’t trust them to run my bath.

    I for one, would love some transparency and be given a clue who this candidate is. Also at this late stage and after many have voted, could this Mayor/Councillor be brought to account and if necessary made to resign. Gee that’s frightening – that sounds like Russell Norman.

  3. Larry, I will leave it up to the guilty party to identify themselves. Lets see how long that takes !
    The fact is you cannot trust any of the sitting councillors to run a bath, let alone the city.
    Their idiotic decision to continue with commercial gambles with ratepayers money when they would not chance one dollar of their own speeks volumes.
    The Tourism Manager has finally confirmed to Marty Sharpe of the Dominion Post that the Nimon contract cost $67,000 for the first 4 months to run just ONE Art Deco bus– the second is now in storage.
    Extrapolated out this amounts to $200,000 per annum per bus or $4oo,ooo for the two, with little, if any income.
    This bunch of councillors who clearly consider themselves latter day Warren Buffets are nothing but an expensive laughing stock who could not run a lemonade stand in the Sahara.
    Trouble is their ineptitude is costing the city’s ratepayers at least $10,000 per week, and that is only one of their dumb commercial gambles !
    Worse, the San Diego builder is apparently suing the city for a further $200,000 which it has yet to pay.
    Although only back from the U.S. a week after 6 months away, everyone I have spoken to is voting, but only for candidates who are not current councillors.
    Seems like a plan !

  4. Kia ora Tom Belford … thanks for the info. about the ‘porkie pie story telling’ of Murray Douglas. Interesting but I don’t feel it was that necessary for you to be wasting your time & energy.
    As a Wahine, a Māori, Mana Whenua, Tangata Whenua, I researched you candidates, to make an informed Vote or Not. Whilst my preference of voting would be for Wahine Māori, Kahungunu tangata, there were none for me to vote and support for HBRC. Much as I thought you were all a bunch old pakeha fartz seeking a seat on the HBRC, our Kahungunu Chief, Ngahiwi Tomoana and our Legal Counsel for the Tukituki Awa Catchment – against the Ruataniwha Dam – advised us to research and identify Candidates who were standing for HBRC and supporting kaupapa pūtake Māori … Hence you came up top of our List Tom Belford and I have advised Māori Voters to support your candidacy along with Rex Graham for the HBRC. Douglas was / is nowhere on our radar.

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