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.