City Council surge of secret meetings

The Dunedin City Council is having a lot of ‘workshops’, or meetings with the public not only excluded but also not advised about. They avoid public notification saying no decisions are made at the ‘workshops’ so they are not classified as meetings, but decisions councillors make must be informed by these secret meetings.

And this move towards secrecy is a common council problem around the country.

ODT:  What goes on behind closed doors? More DCC ‘workshops’

Dunedin’s elected officials are increasingly discussing major issues behind closed doors.

Since October 2016 the Dunedin City Council has held 48 workshops, none of which have been publicly advertised.

Figures released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act show they are also being held more often.

In the year to July 31 this year the council held 31 more workshops  than in the previous two years combined.

Subjects covered included the council’s $860 million 10-year plan, the $15.8 million Mosgiel pool project, the central city plan and freedom camping.

Under the Local Government Act, councils need to publicise all official meetings and make agendas publicly available.

But as no decisions are made during the informal workshops, they are not classified as meetings.

Other local councils publicise  workshops and some  open them to the public, but many do  not.

Mayor Dave Cull has campaigned on transparency and public engagement, but seems to be doing the opposite. This looks like deliberate avoidance of open democracy.

Cull is also president of Local Government New Zealand.

A leading local government academic says the informal meetings, also known as workshops, exacerbate the disconnect between councils and the public.

Massey University senior lecturer Dr Andy Asquith said secrecy was bad for local democracy and when someone stood for public office they should expect to be scrutinised.

When the public and media were excluded, people had no way of knowing what their council was doing, he said.

“The fundamental problem with local government is people don’t know what councils do, or what councillors do or who they are and they turn off,” Dr Asquith  said.

The use of workshops was widespread across councils and there would only be a change if the Government decided to make  changes to the Local Government Act, something it had been hesitant to do, he said.

So this isn’t just a Dunedin problem.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said councillors were presented with such a large amount of complex information, it would be impractical to try to absorb all of it during one council meeting.

There was no risk public debate would be stifled because of the increasing use of workshops, he said.

That’s a remarkable claim.

If the public doesn’t know what councillors are discussing and being told then public debate must be at risk – the public can’t debate what has been kept secret from them.

Cr Lee Vandervis said while some workshops were valuable, others were a “muzzling exercise” and he had stopped attending many.

“Some of them are good but many are being used to stifle debate and a lot of decisions are precariously close to being made or certainly coming to consensus, as Mayor Cull likes to say.”

He has often clashed with Cull, being a rare Dunedin councillor prepared to publicly challenge the mayor and council.

Media commentator and University of Auckland academic Gavin Ellis said the effect of workshops was to reduce the level of public debate of issues which were of public interest, whether it was intended or not.

There were already sufficient provisions in the Local Government Act safeguards which protected sensitive information discussed by councillors, so there was no need for the increasing use of the meetings.

Mr Ellis said the Dunedin City Council was not the worst offender, but the increase should worry anybody who cared about accountability and open government.

Unfortunately it isn’t unusual for politicians to do the opposite of what they say they will do on transparency, but that doesn’t excuse a surge in secrecy.

The default position should be that meetings or workshops be notified and to held in public.

This surge in secrecy sucks.

ODT editorial on secrecy and the OIA

Journalists use the Official Information Act extensively to try and get information out of national and local government sources, so know as well as anyone about the problems with the way the OIA is being abused by politicians.

Today’s ODT editorial looks at The perils of secrecy

Keeping secrets from the public — or as those guilty of that action would prefer to put it, withholding information for various, sometimes tenuous, reasons — is one of the first worrying steps towards that scourge of modern-day life: “fake news”.

Not so many years ago, reporters at this newspaper and other media outlets could simply pick up a phone and ask a burning question of the appropriate person at city hall, or the hospital or the university.

That is now happening less and less frequently. Instead, questions, submitted in writing, are vetted and — perhaps the same day but often a day or two later — an anodyne response is issued. That is the best-case scenario.

Politicians now often protect themselves from scrutiny by employing ex-journalists as a barrier.

In the worst-case, either the organisation leaves it a few days before saying it will not comment, or it plays fast and loose with the Official Information Act and cynically uses up the entire 20 working-day period allowed for in the Act before replying.

In a democratic nation like New Zealand — one widely vaunted overseas for its lack of institutional corruption — such pettiness and refusal to engage on matters of public interest is disgraceful. Where the public is paying, through rates or taxes, the salaries of those in the organisation doing the concealing, their actions are completely abhorrent.

These people who are actively working against transparency, who enjoy blocking the media, acting after all as the public’s advocates, are effectively walking roughshod over democracy.

Yes, and New Zealand’s democracy is much the poorer for it.

People are paid more to keep secrets than to uncover information.

Late last week there were several examples of flagrant obfuscation and obstruction from the Dunedin City Council.

In one case, the council is choosing not to answer questions which have been put to it by this newspaper for nearly a year about alleged bullying and other problems in its city property department. Despite Official Information Act requests, it is withholding a Deloitte report, saying it needs to protect privacy and also citing commercial sensitivity. Elected representatives and council staff all ran for cover when asked for comment. The ODT has now referred the matter to the Office of the Ombudsman.

On the same page of Friday’s newspaper, the city council refused to say what assets valued at $63 million it was planning to sell, again specifying commercial sensitivity as the reason. This also has been referred to the Ombudsman.

This sounds particularly stupid – how are they going to sell assets without saying what they are going to sell?

It is disgraceful that the ODT has to go to the Ombudsman on a regular basis in order to get information that should be the public’s as of right.

This refusal to engage is a very troubling development. Stalling, fudging and engaging in sophistry make any organisation look bad.

Of course, it is not just the DCC that plays these games — even the most simple public information can sometimes be very difficult to receive in a timely fashion from other Otago councils, the Southern District Health Board, the police, the University of Otago and, especially, the Government.

Especially the Government – or more accurately, Governments present and past, who have set a very poor example of refusing to engage and inform.

We need to stop this slide into secrecy before we have a New Zealand filled with nepotism and favouritism, undeserved privilege and injustice, one in which corruption is able to breed in dark, secret corners.

Lawyer Graeme Edgeler writes at Public Address: A Small Official Information Act Fix

A few days ago, TVNZ journalist Andrea Vance tweeted an Official Information Act response she had received from David Parker, the Attorney-General. Vance had sought information about workload and funding pressures on Crown Solicitors, something he had apparently taken an interest in while in opposition.

The response received advised that “the Attorney-General is not subject to the OIA in the performance of their Law Officer functions.” This is footnoted to an Ombudsman opinion that does not appear to be online. I’ve no reason to doubt it exists, although I think the argument is weak. I’m aware of another Ombudsman’s opinion (that is publicly available) that says that the Solicitor-General in performing her Law Officer functions is outside the OIA because the Office of Solicitor-General is not listed in the Ombudsman Act, or in the OIA, which I can accept. I’m not sure that it’s as clear for the Attorney-General. Ministers of the Crown are subject to the OIA in the performance of their ministerial functions, and I would have said that Attorney-General was exercising a ministerial function when acting as a Law Officer of the Crown.

That said, even the exclusion of the Solicitor-General for the OIA is a pretty big oversight.

I can’t imagine it was a conscious decision, but even if it was, it was wrong. The Solicitor-General is the Executive’s chief legal officer, and exercises all sorts of government power. There’s probably a lot of information that the Solicitor-General has that shouldn’t be made public, but that can be protected by the other grounds in the OIA, like legal professional privilege. There is no reason for a blanket exclusion.

So, with that in mind, I have drafted a short bill. It adds a short subparagraph to the definition of official information to provide that information held by the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General in the exercise of their function as Law Officers of the Crown is official information.

The problem here is that it requires a majority of politicians to force better compliance with the OIA.

Both Labour and the Greens have promised better transparency, but Labour seems to be doing the opposite.

Dunedin council admits flooding fault

The Dunedin City Council has admitted that a blocked pumping station meant that the flooding in South Dunedin last year was about 20 cm deeper than it would otherwise have been if the pumping station was fully effective.

This was revealed at a public meeting where anger at the council was expressed.

RNZ: Dunedin council concedes flood worsened by faulty pumping station

South Dunedin residents have been waiting for a year for its council to front up for the flooding – and last night it did so en masse. At least eight city councillors, the chief executive and her two deputies were quizzed by 200 locals about what happened last June, and what will stop it happening again.

Chief executive Sue Bidrose told the crowd of 200 people the council had reports showing the flood was caused by more rain falling than the stormwater system was designed to cope with.

But Dr Bidrose made a major concession, saying the council now accepted a key pumping station was blocked, adding an extra 20cm of water to the area.

20 cm makes a big difference as to the severity of flooding or whether houses got flooded at all.

Surrey Street, South Dunedin.

Surrey Street, South Dunedin. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

She said the council was fixing the pumping station, had all the drains and mud tanks in South Dunedin fully cleared and had new procedures when heavy rain was forecast.

Checking that flood protection was in good working order prior to forecast heavy rain seems a fairly basic thing. That new procedures are required to remedy fundamental flaws does not give one confidence in their council.

I think Sue Bidrose is generally doing a good job trying to sort out problems in the council. There seems to be less public confidence in the mayor.

But it will take more than her words to sort out the ill feeling with residents, who said they felt neglected and betrayed by the council, and especially by Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull.

Shortly after the flooding, Mr Cull linked the event to climate change and warned South Dunedin may have to beat a managed retreat.

Local woman Kathinka Nordal Stene said she was shocked Mr Cull undermined the community at the time when it most needed his support.

Kathinka was a neighbour of mine in Central Otago when I was very young and she was quite a bit older. I don’t remember much of her, but good to see her in action on this. Her mother was prominent in  protest against the flooding of Lowburn through the Clyde dam last century.

The ODT also reported on the meeting: Anger about South Dunedin’s future

Unanswered questions about the long-term future of South Dunedin and the city’s response to climate change loomed large at a heated public meeting last night.

Attendees heard about the short-term measures the council had taken or was about to take to ensure South Dunedin’s infrastructure would run at full capacity should there be a repeat of last June’s devastating flood.

But the meeting was at its most heated when the long-term future of the area was discussed. Council representatives said it was too soon to say how it might respond to the difficult issues posed by rising sea levels and groundwater caused by climate change.

Ironically…

…SDAG spokesman Ray MacLeod finished the meeting by praising some of the council’s short-term measures, but had harsh words when it came to what he perceived as a “green” agenda on the council.

This agenda had resulted in a council policy of “strategic withdrawal” from South Dunedin “by stealth”, Mr MacLeod said.

Perhaps a fairly Green leaning council that has been seen to have put a priority on cycleways through South Dunedin (that were poorly designed and had to be rebuilt so fire engines could use the streets) could shift focus to pedal powered boats, although mobility scooters are probably more relevant to South Dunedin than bike power.

Seriously, what is particularly concerning is that a Green council that has stated an importance on preparing for climate change was so poorly prepared for a bit of heavy rain.

Council chief executive Sue Bidrose earlier said there was no such plan, but both she and Mayor Dave Cull, whose speech was read out by Acting Mayor Andrew Noone, said such an option could not be counted out, given the serious threat posed by climate change.

There has been more threat from basic council ineptitude.

But it is no wonder some of the many residents of South Dunedin are concerned about the council not counting out a plan for a “strategic withdrawal” from South Dunedin.

Much of the South Dunedin area was swamp in the 1800s before being drained.

Prior to European settlement, much of the area of The Flat was poorly drained and marshy.

Much of the swampy land of The Flat was drained through the efforts of Chinese settlers were notable among early residents in the St Clair area, and largely through their effort the swampy land inland from the beach was drained and converted into market gardens.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Dunedin

There have been potential problems with drainage, low level land and high water tables long before ‘climate change’ and rising sea levels were raised as a potential future problem.

Reduced income after ‘ethical investment’ decision

Ethical investment decisions made by the Dunedin City Council last year have led to substantially reduced returns from investment funds.

ODT reports: City pays cost for divesting

Some of the Dunedin City Council’s divestment decisions have cost the city, it was revealed at yesterday’s council finance committee meeting.

Group chief financial officer Grant McKenzie said the Waipori Fund had realised some losses as a result of the council’s decision to divest from some sectors, but the total amount was not clear.

The council voted last May to scrap any investments the fund had in the munitions, tobacco, fossil fuel extraction, gambling or pornography industries and to bar future investment in those industries.

While they are now forbidden areas of investment I haven’t seen any claims that there were any investments in munitions, tobacco or pornography.

Is oil, coal and mineral extraction really on the same ethical level as them? To the Greens perhaps. Or they wanted to make ‘ethical investment’ sound better when their target was primarily mining and drilling.

The ethical investment policy gave the fund two years to exit those industries, but Mr McKenzie confirmed yesterday the last of its positions – BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto – were sold earlier this year.

But there were investments in mining, something Greens want to stop – and there’s a definite Green lean to the Dunedin City Council.

‘‘We are now in a position that we have completely divested in those shares,” he said.

The fund had produced $783,000 in profit during the eight months to February 29. However, this was $1.657 million down on the budgeted $2.44 million profit.

Some of the unfavourable variance was because of divestment losses, Mr McKenzie said.

  • Budgeted $2.44 million profit
  • Actual $783,000 profit

That’s a significant reduction to under a third of budgeted returns.

Green anti-mining and anti-drilling policies appear have come at a significant cost to Dunedin ratepayers.

And we still need oil and mineral products.

And we don’t seem to have made millions from clean green alternatives.

DCC votes to be Green climate lobbyists

The infiltration of Green national politics into local body government took a worrying turn yesterday. Dunedin City Council has voted in four climate change resolutions:

• Urge the Government to adopt a tougher carbon emissions target.

• Support the Government in that goal by reducing Dunedin’s carbon emissions.

• Join the international ”Compact of Mayors” agreement to measure and reduce emissions across Dunedin.

• Ask the Government to place a moratorium on deep sea oil and gas exploration.

It looks like there is a big dollop of Green Party national politics in those resolutions, with the Dunedin City Council voting to allow themselves to be Government lobbiests on issues of national and international interest.

The resolutions were brought before the council by Crs Jinty MacTavish and Aaron Hawkins.

I don’t think McTavish is officially in the Green Party but is closely aligned with more extreme Green policies, and has been influential in promoting Green policies and practices at a local body level.

Hawkins stood as a Green Party candidate in 2013 local body elections when he became a councillor.

The ODT reports in Council says yes to climate change resolutions that there was some opposition:

Cr Andrew Noone said Dunedin would be better off ”walking the talk” than telling the Government what to do.

Cr John Bezett said the issue was one for central Government, and Dunedin was ”wasting our time” giving its opinion.

Cr Andrew Whiley said climate change was a problem needing to be addressed first and foremost by the world’s biggest polluters, including China and India.

Both there was more support in a fairly left leaning council:

But that view was rejected by Cr Richard Thomson, who said grass-roots pressure was what drove governments to make big decisions.

Cr David Benson-Pope brought cheers from the gallery for his speech on why Dunedin had to take a stand.

”Like it or not, colleagues, we are part of our community. In fact, we are supposed to be some of the carriers of the moral leadership.”

”There was no question what thousands of New Zealanders thought about the issue during the weekend’s climate change marches,” he said.

”They think this community needs to move.

”I agree with them, and I’m not reluctant to … tell the Government it’s time that they got real and re-established a degree of political integrity and moral fibre on this issue.”

Benson-Pope has a Labour rather than a Green background. He was an MP from 1999-2008.From 2005-2007 he was Minister for the Environment in the Clark Government.

Unusually for a setting MP he was not selected by his party to stand again for Dunedin South in 2008. It seems like he still has a hankering for being involved in national politics.

I’m not surprised with this Green politicking in Dunedin, the Greening and Lefting of the council was an issue of concern raised in the 2013 election.

I would rather the Dunedin council put more effort into administering and improving Dunedin for their rate payers rather than delving into Green national politics.

UPDATE: In other news in the ODT today things that don’t seem to matter so much to DCC councillors:

Queenstown-Lakes also fared well in the number of dwelling consents issued in October with 96, up from 65 in September and by far the highest for the past 12 months.

Central Otago had 19 dwellings consented, up from 16 and again the highest total for the past 12 months.

Dunedin slumped to 19 dwelling consents in October from 25 in September.

That’s depressing enough, but more so given the headline: New year looks good for Otago builders.  Not so much for Dunedin builders.

 

Sterile Space and pot luck

Something in the local Rothesay News made me chuckle.

Pioneer Hall News

With the kitchen now a Dunedin City Council Base Sterile Space to celebrate the registration and completion of a VERY drawn out process, we’ll celebrate with a community pot luck on Saturday.

One way to ensure the kitchen remains sterile is to get everyone to bring their own food, presumably from non-registered kitchens.

Supermarket conditions – parking on streets ban

Countdown has been battling business limiting Dunedin City for some time, but were yesterday consent to build a new supermarket in Mosgiel – with a number of restrictive conditions attached.

Otago Daily Times reports Mosgiel supermarket approved.

  • The new store, which will be more than 50% larger than the present Mosgiel Countdown
  • Two protected yew trees on the site will be retained
  • No retail tenancies, other than a ”coffee dispensary”, will be permitted on the site
  • The customer car park will be locked during non-trading hours
  • Pylon signage is no larger than 6m high and 2.2m wide
  • Heavy vehicle usage limited to Gordon Rd
  • Low-tone beeping technology will be fitted to forklifts, all of which will be electric-powered quieter models.
  • Install noise-reducing glazing to nearby residential properties

Despite the noise reduction measures neighbouring houses have to be double glazed.

On top of all of that is one of the silliest conditions I’ve seen.

  • Supermarket staff will not be allowed to park their cars on surrounding streets.

How can they police that? More importantly, how can they prohibit private citizens from parking on public streets? Are they only banned from parking on streets during their shift hours or at any time?

The Mosgiel Countdown has had a major battle – they won some, as the DCC had recommended limiting opening hours to 9 am – 6 pm, which would have been an anti-competitive limitation as the New World open s 8 am – 9 pm.

Some of the conditions are still quite restrictive. Will heavy vehicles be banned entirely from other adjoining streets or just while delivering to Countdown?

But the ban on staff parking on streets is surely contrary to basic citizens’ rights.

Dunedin’s bountiful walking tracks

One of the things I really like about Dunedin is the number and variety of walking tracks. Apart from a dozen beaches that all have good walking options there are flat tracks, bush tracks and hill and mountain tracks.

I’ve walked many of them. There’s one for most occasions, as long as you’re dressed for it and have an appropriate level of fitness.

And while you often encounter other walkers you also often get to walk in relative solitude.

Dunedin City Council and the department of Conservation have launched a new brochure on Dunedin walks.

Councillor Jinty MacTavish has posted on Facebook:

This week the Dunedin City Council in conjunction with the Department of Conservation, launched the first print run of a rad new Dunedin walks brochure. There’s an online version, too, with details of popular walks in one handy location (see link below). It’s not perfect – there are parts of our beautiful city that this first edition doesn’t cover, and there may be favourite walks in Central Dunedin that also aren’t included. But it’s a really exciting first step, and staff would love to hear feedback from you all so they can make the next print version (in a couple of months time) even better…email for feedback is andrew.lonie@dcc.govt.nz.

The DCC website lists walk category links.

The Walking tracks page also has links to online brochures. It’s worth repeating here:

Related information

Some of Dunedin’s beaches and also on Virtual Tourist.

Semi-support of Brent Bachop #2

While Dunedin City Council seems to want to bury and forget the Cityfleecing saga laying all the blame of Brent Bachop there are wider questions being asked at What if? Dunedin…

In response to the previous post – Semi-support of Brent Bachop #1 – ‘Phil’ comments:

Steve, I think that we all appreciate your comments on the boards.

My own impressions of Brent are similar to yours and others in many ways. Face to face, a nice guy. Not the sharpest knife out there, but he did appear to be trying to do the best for his department during my professional dealings with him. It is that side which makes the other side all the more difficult.

Most of us agree that Brent found himself in the middle of a pre-existing situation.

The Deloitte report says that they have been given information that DCC vehicles were sold to the public prior to Bachop taking over as team Leader of Citifleet.

In September the ODT reported Citifleet case goes further:

The Dunedin City Council’s alleged Citifleet fraud may go ”considerably further back” than first thought, and more cars – and more missing money – are likely to be involved, it has been confirmed.

The revelation came from council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose and Mayor Dave Cull, who both told the Otago Daily Times the alleged fraud appeared to pre-date former Citifleet team leader Brent Bachop’s time in charge.

Mr Bachop took over Citifleet from former manager Bob Heath in 2003.

Dr Bidrose said the investigation could only easily examine computerised financial records dating as far back as 2003, as earlier paper records were more difficult – and costly – to trawl through.

However, evidence had emerged suggesting the alleged fraud pre-dated 2003, and had been going on ”for a long time”, she said.

”Everything would suggest to me it’s been going on since before 2003, which is when our financial systems enabled us to start looking at it.

”People have worked hard, or somebody’s worked hard, to cover it up,” she said.

Asked how far back it might go, she said: ”I don’t know, but people are reporting odd behaviour prior to 2003. We simply can’t quantify that.’

Mr Cull said he also understood the alleged fraud may have ”originated considerably further back than 2003”.

Mr Cull said he did not want to speculate on whether Mr Heath had also been involved in anything untoward, saying ”I wasn’t here then”.

However, others spoken to by the ODT have described the former Citifleet manager as the ”Arthur Daley of the city council”.

It was one of his enduring nicknames during his time at the council, and referenced the shady character from the long-running British television show Minder.

So there seems to have been a considerable “pre-existing situation” that a number of people were aware of.

What did the Council do about it? They appointed Heath’s apprentice to take over management of the fleet (and the fleecing).

Back to Phil:

I think that everyone also accepts that it would have been almost impossible for Brent to carry out what he did, for the length of time that he did, without some additional internal knowledge or support. By the same token, we would have to accept that his predecessor would also have required internal support.

So it is going to be impossible to know at what point Brent first became aware of the situation. What his rationale was in making his final decision, I guess we will never know. Maybe it was for selfish reasons, maybe it was so that it would be easier to explain away in years to come. No one will ever know for sure.

That no one with the motor trade industry even suspected that something may be wrong with the sale and purchase of DCC fleet vehicles borders on professional negligence, in my opinion.

Concerns have been expressed in the motor trade industry for years. The Council refused to listen.

While the company owners may not have been aware, those who signed off on the purchases had been working for enough years to know what felt right and what felt wrong. One can only hope that the corrective processes being carried out with the DCC are also being carried out by the dealerships involved as the public has to right to have confidence when dealing with both public and private professionals.

That’s why some dealers are demanding the culprits are named – see ODT Identify car yards – dealers.

I do maintain that those who sought out Brent within the DCC for purchase of a fleet vehicle, for the most part, genuinely thought they were getting a good deal from DCC. That’s why they went there in the first place.

There were many such deals available exclusively to DCC. Paint was cheap from a particular supplier, as were (I believed noted by the ODT) tyres. Ethically completely wrong, but legally it was all there in the employee handbook at the time.

In the time since this has come to light, there have been a number of people who have chosen to hide behind the legality curtain and have chosen to completely ignore the personal integrity issue of ethics.

As with the other discounts, we all knew that we were being offered something that wasn’t being offered to the public in general.

That is especially important when considering an item originally purchased with public funds. Disappointing, but now most people know who they are. I agree entirely that the case against those who made payments direct to Brent Bachop (and those people are both internal and external) is much simpler. A reasonable person would have questioned.

A lot of reasonable people deserve a number of questions answered, and about a lot more than Brent Bachop’s culpability.

Semi-support of Brent Bachop #1

While Dunedin City Council seems to want to bury and forget the Cityfleecing saga laying all the blame of Brent Bachop there are wider questions being asked at What if? Dunedin…

A comment from Steve Lewis:

What can one say about Brent? He was a pretty simple guy who took over a job where his predecessors had been on the take for years. There is no excuse for what he did and the hundreds who attended his funeral, who loved him, or in my case were his friends have had trouble coming to terms with what has happened.

The idea that Brent did all this alone is quite ridiculous, those who turned a blind eye, who knew the price they were paying could not be right but bought the car anyway.

The dealers who must have known they were paying well under market value, staff at the DCC who must have known things were not as they should be but chose to ignore the signs.

Brent’s family have been to hell and back, they are the victims here, they are the ones who cannot escape what for them is an ongoing nightmare.

Most of his wider family are probably innocent of any wrong-doing and Bachop’s death and the revelations of his alleged fraud will be tough on them. And especially on his children who are blameless.

The Brent I knew was a kind and generous person who I wish had chosen to face his punishment, he would have been supported, he would have ultimately been forgiven and moved forward with his life.

Some may have forgiven him, many would have found that difficult given the extent of the fraud and the length of time it was done for. But it’s sad he chose not to face up to it.

He was not in this alone, he was not some criminal Mastermind. He was a guy who got himself into something he could no longer control. For the DCC to now conveniently use him as a scapegoat speaks volumes about their integrity and morality.

The inquiry has been inadequate and has failed to rigorously investigate others who must have been involved, who must have understood the prices they were paying did not reflect proper market value.

Getting a bargain at the expense of ratepayers seems to have been a cultural problem.

To those who wrote cheques made out to Brent Bachop and not the DCC, or those who just handed over cash.

The Deloitte report that happened from Council staff and from car dealers who should have all known better.

There will be many still having sleepless nights, many who must know they are standing by hoping a dead man will carry the can for them and no more questions will be asked. I wonder how long it will be before someone finally breaks their silence and spills the beans on the whole tragic and sorry episode.

I think too many people have been to some degree involved or will have known things weren’t right for more of the story not to get out.

Now people see the Council led by mayor Dave Cull trying to bury and forget some will want more of the truth to be made public.

I don’t think there’s much doubt that Bachop made serious mistakes over at least a decade.

But to be fair to him and to the ratepayers he shouldn’t cop all the blame.

Bachop chose not to face the music but the Dunedin City Council seems to be trying to heap all blame on the conductor and bury the orchestra with him.