The embattled mayor of Invercargill, Sir Tim Shadbolt, has once again found himself at odds with his advice, this time over Christmas cards.
While he has been mayor, Shadbolt has sent out Christmas cards with the taxpayer dollar.
Recipients typically included members of Parliament, justices of the peace, council stakeholders and people who had sent him cards, he said.
However, this year’s request to host the annual fall was rejected by the council.
A compromise has been reached, but it marks the end of a tradition that dates back to the 1980s.
Last Thursday, Shadbolt emailed the council’s executive director, Clare Hadley, to make sure “regular staff” were available to produce the cards.
“I’ve had other distractions recently, but I need to continue with them as soon as possible so I can post in early December,” he said.
The answer was not exactly what I expected.
Hadley responded to the email that night asking for clarification on the meaning of “her” Christmas cards and expressing concern that the spending did not meet the auditor general’s guidelines.
“I’ve seen some that have a photograph of you, and it would be inappropriate for taxpayers to fund a card that promotes an individual, rather than the City,” Hadley said.
Shadbolt called the question “existential” in a follow-up email, and said the evidence for the last 15 cards would be on file with the council.
Following a meeting of presidents on Tuesday, it was decided that the cards should come from both the mayor and the chief executive on behalf of the organization.
The card would also be produced as an electronic card for the first time, with the savings going towards the mayor’s Christmas dinner.
Responding to Hadley’s email prior to the meeting, Shadbolt argued that the cards so far had managed to escape direct complaints from the auditor, and suggested that the mayor and CEO don Santa and the elf suits as a show of unity.
“They became a collector’s item. And I got in trouble if I didn’t send a card, or the person I was sending it to had died,” he told Local Democracy Reporting.
“It would probably be close to 100 [cards] I would say that. Part of the philosophy of bringing happiness and joy to the Christmas season “.
Speaking after the meeting, Shadbolt said the card dilemma hadn’t created as much of a buzz as he hoped, and sounded philosophical about the change of medium.
The debate over the letters is the latest hurdle for Shadbolt, who claims his power has been stripped since he resumed office in October 2019.
Last month, the council did not pay his admission to the New Zealand Local Government conference on the South Island in Christchurch, fearing he might not be able to represent him on issues like Three Waters.
On Monday, he said a mayor’s budget that allowed him to spend up to $ 40,000 a year on promotional projects had “vanished.”
Shadbolt (74) is in his ninth term as Mayor of Invercargill and was previously Mayor of Waitematā in Auckland.
Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the Association of News Publishers, and NZ On Air.