Desperate reporting or dirty politics?

Sunday 16 May 2010, 10:34AM
By North Shore City Council


The naivety of young Sunday Star Times reporter Jonathan Marshall in today's edition is only equalled by his latest poorly researched article which once again includes inaccuracies and deliberately misleading content. It highlights his inexperience and lack of understanding of business and government.

North Shore City Council has an annual budget for the mayor's general expenses which covers hosting and corporate costs as leader of the city. This is normal practice for any major city and corporate business. It is hardly newsworthy that any large organisation with an annual budget in excess of $350 million with over $4 billion in assets would have such a budget and incur expenses for its "Chairman" in the order of $8,000.

It is hardly newsworthy when I do not exceed this approved mayoral budget and what's more Marshall's need to break down my expenses for his article defies the modest level of expense.

With reference to Marshall's statement "Williams has a mayoral vehicle and fuel card, but he also spent $662.89 on taxi fares". This is hardly surprising given that I had a broken leg in 2009 which restricted my driving for several months, and during which time I continued to attend many super city and other meetings while getting around on crutches. No sick leave for a busy Mayor.

Furthermore, as with other big city mayors, I am fully eligible for a mayoral driver for civic duties. I seldom deem this to be a necessary ratepayer expense except on the rarest of occasions. During the previous 3 year term of council the former mayor's driver's expenses were in the order of $47,000. Mine this term have been less than $3,000.

Likewise, unlike many mayors of major New Zealand cities, I have not undertaken any ratepayer funded overseas trips during this term of office. I have only travelled internationally as a guest when invited by a host organisation or country. The last such overseas travel was in December 2008.

The credit card expenses referred to in Marshall's article also include domestic travel and he conveniently does not seperate these airfares and taxi costs. Unlike Mayor Banks who is quoted in the article as not using a council credit card (i.e. presumably he uses his own credit card with council expenses being reimbursed). I choose to use the council credit card for domestic council travel in order to secure the lowest internet airfares. As a result I regularly take the "$69 fares". In the past council travel arrangements had often resulted in much higher and costly full fares.

I am now also totally confused by the trail of events attributed to me in the repeatedly rehashed story about my visit to GPK restaurant on 26 March. In one edition he incorrectly has me at Portofino between 4 - 5pm when I was in fact back at the council building in a property purchase meeting which, as a direct result of my negotiations, saved North Shore City $100,000.

He states today that I paid a Portofino account that night, when I was clearly at GPK during the evening, as a guest.

Marshall has made totally unsubstantiated allegations in relation to supposed drinking and driving when GPK bar staff have appeared on national television stating that the mayor was in no way intoxicated. In fact quite the contrary as I was required at a 6am television interview the following morning.

Marshall now states that "Wednesday last week Williams again visited Takapuna's GPK, according to staff bar staff. He caught a taxi home". I must have a double as I have not been to GPK since the March 26 episode, and I have not travelled by taxi in the past month."

Marshall attended the April 28 evening North Shore City Council meeting and concern was raised by a number present at his most unusual demeanour whilst sitting at the press desk. He displayed inappropriate behaviour in his efforts to be disruptive and questions were subsequently asked by some as to his state of mind. There have been other instances of harassment and intimidation by this reporter towards council staff, their families, and other colleagues. There have also been links between Marshall and a number of politically motivated bloggers and other political activists.

The matter of Marshall's conduct has been the subject of a complaint to the Editor of the Sunday Star Times, and may be taken to the Press Council, particularly in light of Marshall's previous dismissals from other media organisations for similar conduct and misleading reporting.