Sir Tim Shadbolt falls out with council over ‘lack of IT training’

Invercargill Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt is refusing to apologise for comments he made about a lack of training and support, comments which his fellow councillors say harm the city council’s reputation.

The issues stem from a story about training for councillors published in the Otago Daily Times on April 9 in which Shadbolt said he had several requests for one-on-one IT training denied.

The statement was rejected by council staff who said the mayor had received one-on-one training on numerous occasions from both IT and administrative staff.

It has been a tempestuous term in office for the veteran mayor, with his former deputy Toni Biddle quitting last October, saying the environment at the council was “toxic” and claiming there was a leadership vacuum.

A Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) investigation confirmed there were leadership problems in November, a finding which Shadbolt rejected.

“The actual content of the report, I’m not willing to wear,” he said, at the time. “I refuse to take the mantle of convenient scapegoat.”

At a council meeting yesterday, a motion was moved by councillor Rebecca Amundsen recording councillors’ reaction to Shadbolt’s comments.

The motion asked the council to record its disappointment that the mayor had failed to correct his comments or apologise for the harm caused to the council.

Councillor Darren Ludlow chaired the part of the meeting where the issue was discussed because councillors thought that would be more appropriate.

Amundsen said the matter was raised during a chairmen’s group meeting weeks ago and, at the time, a correction and retraction was sought from Shadbolt.

“At the time, when this was raised with chairs, we indicated to the mayor this information was inaccurate and we asked him to retract, which he did not do and the article, subsequently, was published.”

She said they asked him to publicly apologise.

Councillor Ian Pottinger said although the comments were breach of conduct, he did not want to make a formal complaint because of costs to the council.

Deputy mayor Nobby Clark said the situation was frustrating as the mayor’s comments had been negative and mostly unjustified.

“I can clarify for this meeting that I gave the mayor and his partner two and a-half hours of training on digital books in a method very easy for anybody to encompass.”

Shadbolt said the discussion was a surprise to him.

Councillor Nigel Skelt invited him to take the opportunity to reflect and possibly change his mind.

“No,” Shadbolt replied.

Later in the discussion, Shadbolt said he had a “change of policy” as he previously had chosen to not comment on any issue, but that had not worked.

“So I decided to change my policy and respond immediately when the media questioned me on any issue.”

He told councillors he would take the opportunity to find “exactly where the facts” were.

Shadbolt said he wanted to make sure that before he made a public statement, he was fully informed.

All councillors voted in support of the motion with the exception of Councillor Lindsay Abbott, who abstained.

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