Here’s why citizens don’t trust councils. It’s the history of my requests to get information from the Hastings Council regarding their case for the proposed regional sports park.
Set aside, for the moment, that the Council’s legal responsibility is to give ratepayers real options on important matters like this, not simply propaganda for their pre-determined course of action. The Council put itself irrevocably in the sports park cheerleader role over a year ago. Mayor Yule and certain Councillors have been waving their pom-poms enthusiastically ever since.
So OK then, HDC, I’ve asked, show us your case … pull back the curtain. Effectively the Council has replied, “Buzz off!” Fortunately — but perhaps too late to shed any light — the Ombudsman has decided to investigate.
Meantime, here’s the two-month chronology to date of HDC’s response to my information requests.
Information Denials – Regional Sports Park
April 15 Requested copies of monthly reports given by Kelt Capital to HDC re progressing of sports park.
April 21 Request for Kelt reports denied via email from Jessica Soutar Barron, HDC communications staffer.
April 27 Requested copy of HDC contract re sport park with Kelt Capital, as well as confirmation that public tendering process was used.
May 1 Filed complaint re Kelt reports denial with Ombudsmen Office.
May 14 Via BayBuzz article, proposed public meeting to be facilitated by HDC between community leaders (skeptics re RSP) and various consultants retained by HDC/Kelt to address RSP issues
May 21 Denied copy of Kelt contract (portions excerpted in denial letter from HDC CEO, raising additional issues); told “Council decided” to skip the public tendering process because of Kelt’s unique qualifications.
May 23 Formally requested Mayor Yule to arrange community leaders’ meeting with RSP consultants, with stated support of seven Councillors.
May 24 Responded to Mayor Yule request for more information regarding proposed community leaders meeting.
May 27 Amended complaint to Ombudsmen Office to include denial of Kelt contract with HDC.
May 27 Requested copy of additional information assembled by consultant Murray McCaw to document operating and financial projections for RSP
May 29 Received hard copy of April 4, four-page letter from McCaw summarising operational cost/revenue assumptions for RSP (but no supporting data or analysis).
May 30 Mayor Yule, reflecting a vote of Council, rejects community leaders meeting request. [Imagine, Council needs to debate and vote on a request to provide access to its own consultants!]
June 1 Requested further information re McCaw projections and time to review this material in HDC offices (assuming they’d balk at actually sending me the data).
June 3 Received email from Jessica Soutar Barron querying if I wanted to meet with HDC finance chief Ross Franklin re RSP financial data.
June 3 Replied YES!
June 9 Having received no reply to June 3 email, re-forwarded request for meeting with Ross Franklin.
June 10 Received email from Jessica Soutar Barron (sent 4:51 p.m – i.e., COB, so we lose another day) indicating that my request for back-up information supporting the McCaw projections was “too broad” and needed clarification.
June 10 I replied immediately upon seeing the email (i.e., about 6:05p.m.) re-stating my request and its rationale, and emphasizing the obvious time urgency.
June 13 As of COB Friday, with no time left before submission hearings, no reply from HDC.
June 13 Received letter from Ombudsman David McGee, saying:
“I am willing to investigate your complaint, and as the first step in my investigation I have asked the Chief Executive for a report … I have noted that you are seeking the information in relation to a public consultation process, and accordingly I have asked the Council to respond to me with urgency.”
It shouldn’t have to be this hard!