Mayor under fire

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Two councillors are savaging Queenstown mayor Clive Geddes over exit payments to council boss Duncan Field.
“I’m outraged I’ve had no input, no discussion, no information, no nothing [on] that decision,” Vanessa van Uden says. 

“If this is an example of the openness and transparency with which we’re being governed, we’ve a lot to be worried about.” 

Colleague Cath Gilmour is equally adamant: “It should have been a full council decision.” 

Field walked away on Wednesday last week with a total payout of about $72,000.
 
About $28,000 was for holiday pay, $12,000 an annual performance bonus – and about $32,000 for what Geddes first called a “goodwill payment” – and then “a payment in lieu of notice”.
 
The payments were kept quiet until Mountain Scene revealed them last week after an Official Information request.
The first Van Uden and Gilmour knew of them was from last week’s story.
 
“It’s appalling [we] found out simply because [Mountain Scene] made an OI request – we wouldn’t have known if you hadn’t,” Van Uden says.
 
She was put on the spot – a constituent phoned last Thursday to complain before she’d even read the revelations.
“I felt like a plonker,” van Uden says.
 
Neither councillor contests holiday pay but both question Field’s performance bonus and “payment in lieu of notice” – and decisions surrounding them.
 
Geddes and four senior councillors made the call, the mayor saying they’d previously gained a mandate to do so in December’s full council meeting. 

Rubbish, cry his councillor critics.
 
“I don’t believe Clive or the [four councillors] had delegated authority,” Van Uden says.
 
Gilmour adds: “There was no mention made of agreement re payouts to [Field at the December meeting].” 

But Geddes says he flagged “a number of [Field] matters” at that council meeting to get approval for “executive committee” action and he “can’t recollect any dissent”. 

No sums would have been mentioned, he acknowledges.
 
But he made one stuff-up, Geddes admits.
 
“[Mountain Scene] got there first [over the payments] – what I didn’t do and should have done, immediately, is having discussed the matter with [the paper] I should have put a note around to councillors and I didn’t do that. 

“And I accept that’s a mistake.”